As COVID-19 restrictions start to slowly ease up in Australia and in many nations across the world, the future of the traditional working week is looking likely to change.
Source: Designboom - Qworkntine
For the people who have been lucky enough to remain employed and able to work from home during the pandemic, there have been many positive responses. Of course enjoyment of a working from home environment depends on many factors but in one 2015 Stanford University study it was found that Chinese call-center workers who were able to wfh were 13% more productive than the control group, they were also happier and less likely to quit. A recent report found 51% of Australian workers also said they preferred remote working.
If rotational rosters or completely isolated working environments do become normal, our cities will look as different as these workplaces. On a Thursday afternoon during the regular peak hour times, it was recorded that 1.8% of Melbourne roads were congested, this is in stark comparison to the usual 19.8% congestion rates of pre-COVID traffic. "If people worked from home an average of one extra day per week, this would take 1.8 million commuters off the roads and public transport each day". The removal of the commute also takes with it things like petrol usage and media consumption, it redistributes the popularity of certain cafes, bars, gyms and parks as well.
Source: Unsplash - Photo by Mateusz Glogowski
Offices are not disappearing, but they may take different formats and play different roles.
Firstly, offices may look completely different. Qworkntine is a new air-tight pod system developed to allow the "same number of employees per square meter, as in a traditional office" while providing a physical barrier for pathogens. The pods are customisable, are non touch entry (via facial recognition), come complete with air-purifying ventilators and have non-porous surfaces for easy cleaning.
Beyond importing such spaces, many are rethinking the design requirements for offices after the pandemic. A new report by Mckinsey poses the reimagined work-environment when much of the individual work is done remotely; "If the primary purpose of an organization’s space is to accommodate specific moments of collaboration rather than individual work, for example, should 80 percent of the office be devoted to collaboration rooms?". Also discussed is the leap ahead that will be needed in tools like virtual whiteboards, always-on videoconferencing and remote collaboration tools.
Office procedures and protocols will also likely see a revamp. Cushman and Wakefield have developed the "6-feet-office", a structured system, that once incorporated into existing office spaces, allows for simple to follow socially distanced practices. This includes floor arrows, signage, perspex barriers and sanitisation stations. Other potential innovations for improving office environments include autonomous sanitising robots to do the risky work without human involvement and wristbands that vibrate when two people are within 6 feet of one another.