4 Factors To Consider Before Returning To The Office
After months of mandatory work-from-home for businesses, many cities in the region are officially easing out their own version of “lockdown”. In Singapore, for example, while the government-mandated “circuit breaker” has ended, restrictions are still gradually easing up in stages. It’s understandable to be cautious while planning for a return to the office. Social distancing, tightened safety and health regulations are still top-of-mind, especially given that a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be discovered.
Even though you may be taking things slow, now is actually a good time to start planning ahead. Your business situation may have changed, and in turn, so will the factors that go into finding the right workspace solution.
Businesses have to weigh many factors such as: health concerns, maintaining office culture, motivating employees, managing communications as well as balancing business continuity and adjusting to fast-changing business goals.
In this handy guide, we walk through the different factors to think about when finding workspace in the “new normal.”
Office size or headcount is likely the first consideration that comes to mind when starting your search. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and tightened safety regulations, it was acceptable to budget around 45 to 60 square feet per headcount.
Different countries are imposing different regulations when it comes to safe distancing, but the general rule of thumb is to keep 1-2 meters apart in the workspace. This “de-densification of workspace” means that you may potentially need a little more space to accommodate your full team.
Is it really necessary to house your entire team in the same space? Alternatively, consider the increasingly popular split-team arrangements, where working hours are staggered across different teams. For example, Team A would work in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays, while Team B works in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thereby minimizing the risk of infection across groups. According to Swiss furniture company Virta, this arrangement works best with thorough cleaning and sanitation in between shifts.
Key questions to answer:
- How many employees do you expect to have in one office? Do all functions need to be present at the same time?
- Who in your team should return to the office first? Could your re-entry happen in stages?
- Do you need additional space for meeting rooms or storage?
- What is your preferred office layout? An open office setup tends to require less overall space than a traditional cubicle setup.
Flexible workspaces, which comprise coworking spaces, serviced offices and fitted offices, offer customisable private team rooms that can be adapted to suit social distancing requirements. Regus, a global operator with locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo, enables split-team arrangements for tenants by allowing them to take up additional space in adjacent private units for spillover headcount.
Companies that opt for the split-team model can house their employees in different flexible workspace locations.
Businesses recognize that certain client-facing functions—such as sales and business development—may require more travel and flexibility than backend roles. Jobs that require greater mobility require a wider range of options. As work-from-home regulations loosen up, some employees have also learned to prefer working from home due to the convenience it provides. Others prefer working in an office closer to home, to minimise travel time and risking infection in crowded trains or buses.
Nonetheless, working from home is not always the best option for professionals in Asia, where housing is typically smaller, especially in dense cities. That’s why flexible workspace locations outside of key central business districts are becoming very attractive for distributed teams, resulting in a trend known in the US as the “suburban flex.”
Two real estate models to consider:
- Core-and-flex: in this setup, a business complements a traditional HQ space (the “core”) with additional flexible workspace options (the “flex”), oftentimes in the same building or elsewhere. These “flex” options are used for additional temporary headcount, specialized teams or innovation labs, among other functions. Learn more about the advantages of the “core-and-flex” setup in Singapore here.
- Hub-and-spoke: the focus here is on removing pressure on the HQ, and providing convenient options for employees by taking up space in different locations. The “hub” typically houses senior management and key decision makers of a business. All other services or smaller “spokes” are housed in different locations, giving employees the option to choose which location works best for them. Depending on their role, employees can “drop in” at one of the “spokes” to work for the day, week or month.
Even after the COVID-19 health crises subsides, the pandemic is likely to have a long-lasting impact on our expectations for health, hygiene and safety in the workplace.
First things first, check in with your employees on what measures are most important for them to feel safe again at work. While infection numbers have decreased in a number of cities, anxieties about returning to the workplace are expected. Conduct company-wide polls or surveys to see what kinds of changes employees are hoping to see in their environment.
When looking for a new workspace, ask operators key questions about health and safety protocols:
- How often and thoroughly are they cleaning or sanitizing workspaces? Are they using hospital-grade cleaning products?
- What design changes have they implemented to enable social distancing, especially in common areas with high human traffic?
- How are events or meetings facilitated, if at all? Do members get access to virtual communities?
- What are the safety entry/ exit protocols in place?
- How is technology used to minimize risk? (for example, does this workspace use touchless technology for safe entry)
The COVID-19 pandemic is global, and across the board, it’s impossible to predict the economic and business climate moving forward. While we want to be COVID-safe, we also want a fresh start to 2020 and get our businesses back to “normal”.
That’s why it’s crucial for companies to plan for uncertainty and risk by looking for as much rental flexibility as possible. To help businesses cope with COVID-19, a number of flexible workspace operators in the region are now offering month-to-month flexibility and special discounts on longer lease commitments.
Beyond safety concerns, many businesses are also looking to minimize overhead costs. When exploring your options, look out for any ongoing deals and promotions!
Contact our friendly Space Experts who will walk through your requirements and take you on guided virtual tours of workspaces. With this feature, you can get a real feel of your options without having to leave your home.
Contact us at [email protected] or +65 8817 9170. Happy space searching!