Several studies during this crisis have already stated an increase in remote working in the future is inevitable. But what can businesses do with the resulting unused office space?

Key Points

  • This crisis has shown that the future of work favours flexible working, with more people working from home than ever before
  • If this trend continues, this will result in an overcapacity of office space
  • Instead of cutting costs, business can look to generate new revenue by optimising office spaces, in turn increasing productivity within company walls, that takes into consideration the physical distance measurements

The rise of remote working

Since the start of this year, a noticeable shift took place in offices, starting in China and its neighbouring countries, and slowly spreading to those in Europe and America, soon swiping across most workplaces in the world.

Desks have been abandoned for the foreseeable future, as people started setting up desks at home in an effort to ‘flatten the curve’. The result: a global experiment in remote working, in which our laptops have become our new offices and the real future of work.

Pre-COVID times, many employers didn’t include home or remote working in their company policy. According to a study conducted by Workero through BUFFL46% of respondents were not allowed to work from home in normal circumstances before the crisis, the most common reason for this being that employers said it ‘was impractical or even impossible’.

Supporting employees to work from afar often involves making changes to a company’s technology setup, culture and management structure, something which many companies are reluctant to invest time and money in.

In addition, many managers assess performances based on seeing employees getting in early and leaving late, and are unable or unwilling to adjust this management style.

But as a result of this crisis, remote working has become a necessity rather than a privilege, and it seems this could be a shift towards a concept that is here to stay, one aspect of what people are referring to as the ‘new normal’. The demand for greater flexibility, which many employees already clamoured for, will continue to grow.

According to a study by Ghent University, most Flemish-speaking Belgians (with office-based roles) found they were able to practise their job, either in part or fully, despite the low frequency in which they worked from home before the crisis. Of the stratified sample, two-thirds linked working remotely with a higher job satisfaction and a better work-life balance.

Workero’s survey highlighted that 85% of respondents would like to continue working remotely for the same amount of days or more as they did prior to the lockdown.

The demand for greater flexibility, which many employees already clamoured for, will continue to grow

When asked in the Workero survey what the main benefits are of working from home, most people (65%) responded the time and money they saved from avoiding their daily commute. These are teleworking benefits that a lot of employees may not want to give up again once lockdowns begin to lift.

In this aspect, remote working in more professional environments but closer to home is expected to become the new trend to replace teleworking, as they bring these benefits to the forefront whilst solving the problems experienced whilst teleworking, such as lack of social contact and distractions from the homefront.

What does the future of work look like?

However, as teleworking and remote working continue to rise in popularity, the number of days employees spend inside offices will decline, at times resulting in unused office space. Although moving to smaller offices could be a solution to facilitate its implementation, many businesses are bound by traditional 3-6-9 leases for their office space.

Although there are countless obvious benefits of remote working for employees, the plus-side for employers may not be as clear to identify, and their reservation to adopt remote working policies becomes more evident when considering that, according to a Colliers studya Belgian company spends on average 11.000 euros per year to provide one employee with a space to work.

This is a financial loss that many companies cannot afford, in particular following a crisis such as the one we find ourselves in now.

Focus on high-performance and health-safe spaces

However, the experience of the past months has also shown that working from a distance on a full-time basis isn’t optimal either. In the same study by Workero, 70% of respondents highlighted that the isolation and lack of spontaneous contact with colleagues was the biggest pitfall of teleworking.

This shows that, even though remote working will grow in success following this crisis, this does not signify the end of office spaces. Instead, this experiment further supports the existing trend toward the redefining of the functionality of workplaces, the second aspect of the future of working.

Once lockdown measures start to lift, people will likely return to their offices mainly to fulfil human-related tasks, but also to convene with colleagues. The goal for employers here is to create a space that facilitates these activities.

From this aspect, the ‘downfall’ of an overcapacity in office space becomes an opportunity: a chance to optimise your existing workspace according to high-performance and activity-based working.

Peggy Van Laere, Consultant Internal Communications & Change Management, explains the benefits of optimising workspaces to the needs of your employees: “Activity-based workspaces create zones for working in function of the task at hand”.

“For example, if I need to focus on a certain project in the morning, but then discuss the progress with my team in the afternoon, I will come to the office. First, I will sit in the quiet space provided there to concentrate. Later, when I want to brainstorm or discuss with my colleagues, I will move to the collaboration zone.”

EVEN though remote working will grow in success following this crisis, this does not signify the end of office spaces

Similarly to implementing remote working within company policy, Van Laere highlights that employees need to receive guidance in this move: “It has been proven that it does work within a lot of companies, if the employees receive enough guidance and as long as they are included in this process.”

However, following this health crisis, work environments will also have to encompass the necessary health and safety measures. In these new, optimised workspaces, these two elements will be central too, and will be taken into consideration when employees look to returning to the office space.

Building on this reasoning, office spaces that combine both high-performance lay-outs with those that follow health safety recommendations are the future.

The future of work, easily implemented with Workero

Implementing these changes and moving towards a new way of working can be a terrifying and overwhelming process for companies. But when looking at the grand scheme of things, the ‘downfalls’ of remote working can be the solution for optimising office spaces.

This is where Workero comes in.

Optimising Workspace

When adding abundant office space to our network, we take care of the layout in line with the Workero design, which is modern and sleek-looking, with homely touches. This optimisation of businesses’ office spaces supports high-performance working.

This means when your employees come into the office, they will be more focused, but also feel more productive and motivated, ticking off one of the aspects of the future of work.

Workero has also taken the necessary steps to include health and safety measures to our office spaces, meaning they comply with current government regulations. Your employees will feel more comfortable in safe workplaces, and in return will be more productive here.

Monetising on Workspace

Through our online booking tool, professionals within the Workero network will be able to book their next desk in the unused spaces of your office. Rather than cutting costs or losing money, new revenue will be generated, up to 4500 euros every year per unused office space. The future of work means no more wasteful empty spaces.

Additionally, by opening a company’s doors to other professionals and companies from similar or different industries, this facilitates co-creating and innovation.

Although these shared spaces have negative connotations following this health-crisis, a rise in remote working will result in companies distancing themselves from traditional office leases. Instead, they will be moving several of their employees to more geographically dispersed flexible offices, like yours.

Implementing Remote Working, Professionally

Finally, your business can implement the online tool to suit your employees’ needs, and allow them to book professional office space closer to their homes on the days when they are remote working. The benefits are obvious: they are able to avoid traffic and long commutes, without having to give up a professional working environment.

As an employer, you can easily manage remote working through our platform, as it allows you to set individual budgets for employees, monitor what location they are working from in real-time. At the end of each month, you will receive one invoice clearly outlining the incurred costs.

Click here to find out more about why Workero is the right solution for your business.

What can BUFFL do for you?

For our survey on teleworking and remote working, we used BUFFL’s survey tool.

On the one hand, BUFFL allows you to conduct a digital market research yourself via the BUFFL tool. Easy and fast instant validation.

On the other hand, BUFFL also has a consultancy process where it guides you from start to finish in the development or launch of a new product or tool. Depending on what you need, it offers personalised process.

What can Workero do for you?