Office Space To Evolve Amidst Constraints Of Working From Home


SINGAPORE – It’s not the end of the office. A study shows that it’s still needed, but workplaces may evolve to offer benefits that working from home (WFH) cannot provide, reported The Edge Singapore on Friday (2 October).

Based on a poll conducted by Paperspace Asia, a workplace strategy and interior design company, 85 percent of almost 500 workers said they are able to focus on their job at home. Nearly all or 98 percent also shared that being able to work from home remains a top priority, even though more employees have been allowed to return to the office since 28 September.

However, for staff with families living in compact homes, working from home is a struggle as they lack an exclusive workspace at their house. Respondents also admitted that another disadvantage of WFH is the absence of face-to-face interaction with colleagues.

Executives believe that the lack of human interaction when working from home could negatively impact younger workers who require daily mentoring, said Paperspace Asia’s Co-founder Narita Cheah, adding that senior managers revealed in the poll that they “miss incidental conversations (at the office) and the creativity that comes out of (it).”

Paperspace Asia’s survey was carried out in India, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.

Due to government’s COVID-19 regulations, a blend of working from home and at the office has become the default in the medium to long term. This means office space is still necessary, but may adapt to the current situation by becoming more flexible and smaller.

“Moving forward, people will not think about the office as a desk to work at, but a place to socialize and connect. For companies, that means the space can be more efficient by not having as many desks in it,” said Toby Rakison, Managing Director for Asia at Unispace.

Unispace is a commercial interior design and consultancy company whose customers include CWT, Deliveroo, and Coca-Cola Amatil.

Rakison opined that companies will come to realize that offices need to facilitate “outcomes”, not “work modes”. The workplace of the future needs to promote activities like building a sense of community among staff, problem-solving as a team, and fostering innovation, all of which are difficult to do when working from home.

Consequently, he said office space should have a more open layout, but it should come with privacy booths where staff can concentrate on their job or take a phone call. Moreover, all rooms and spaces should be equipped with video conferencing technology so workers can communicate with colleagues outside of the workplace.
There should also be premises dedicated to creating a community in the workplace. “A lot of learning happens symbiotically, over coffee chats in the pantry, for instance. With video calls, it’s very purposeful and might not be as spontaneous,” noted Rakison.

Moving forward, Unispace expects that about 40 percent of employees will work from their home up to three days per week by 2021. Office space is also forecasted to become more compact by 20 to 30 percent as there would be more spaces for collaboration and fewer desks.


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