Back in March 2020 when the first lockdown took place, no one was interested in commercial furniture for obvious reasons. Rather than sit and wait for things to pick up, Rainbow decided to research a subject that people would be interested in – how the workplace will change post lockdown

We interviewed product designers, manufacturers and end users on their thoughts and also spoke to interior designers, whose insights we recorded and posted on our LinkedIn channel a year ago.

Our findings were also published in magazines at the time.

Inex Magazine Article
Design Insider Article

The great thing is that over the past 12 months, the conclusions we came to are still very relevant and have actually been validated by other much larger organisations, which came to the same conclusion a few months after us.

What is important is that the changes we are referencing are not the immediate changes for social distancing and separation that will need to be adhered to in order for people to come back immediately, but the more permanent changes once the immediate health concerns have passed.

The most important point we all agreed on is that the workplaces which emerge from the lockdown will be even better than the pre pandemic offices, so the changes will be positive.

The main conclusions of the longer-term changes can be summarised as follows:

1. People will continue to work from home

They will not work from home full time, as they had to do during lockdown, they will split their time between the office and home. This has subsequently been referred to as Hybrid work.If everyone spends a day working from home, this will reduce occupancy levels at the office by 20%. The feedback we received was that 2 days a week at home seemed to be the most common split and this would mean an overall reduction of 40% occupancy in the workplace.

The above figures are obviously dependant on people’s personal circumstances because not everyone can or wants to work from home.

To some companies this reduction of occupancy may mean reducing the amount of floorspace they lease or rent, to others it has provided an opportunity to change the way they work and adopt some of the other changes we note further on in this list.

2. The Workplace will become more social

Whilst it may seem strange at the moment, the new workplace will need to have much more social space built into its design. Nicer kitchen areas, eating spaces, soft seating areas where people can meet, eat, drink coffee and chat, plus making use of outdoor spaces that are available.

These spaces will be so important, especially as start times will be staggered to try and avoid a huge rush hour, so some people will be having their lunch while others who started later are just having their first coffee of the day.

These need to be encouraged because this is where colleagues can become friends. This is good for both the people, as they will then enjoy coming to work more, and the company, – those who have friends at work are more likely to stay working at that organisation.

Office people
The Workplace will become more social.
3. There will be more collaboration and meeting spaces

With people performing their ‘concentration’ work at home, the office then becomes a place where they can spark and develop ideas, and collaborate with their colleagues face to face. The workplace therefore needs to accommodate more areas to facilitate these meetings.

These can be formal meeting rooms or informal meeting spaces, such as booths, touch down tables, as well as high and low and presentation spaces for small and large groups.

There will be huge interaction both business and personal and it should be encouraged.

Collaboration and meeting spaces
4. Space for video conference calls

One of the major positives to come out of the lockdown is that (and this is very true at Rainbow) many people have now realised the value and benefit of video conference calls both in terms of time and money.

With people working at home, even part time, there will need to be more space in the office dedicated to video conference calls. Traditionally these would be dedicated rooms for groups of people and while these will still be needed, there is also going to be a larger need for dedicated spaces where one or two people can hold calls.

5. Concentration Space

If the workplace is going to be more social and have a lot more collaboration taking place within it, then there will an even greater need for spaces where people can break away and concentrate; somewhere that is a little oasis of quiet so they can avoid any interruptions in order to complete their work.

This is vital for anyone who does not have a quiet space to work from at home.

6. Acoustics

As people return to the office and with it becoming a lot more collaborative and social, acoustics in the workplace will now be a much higher consideration than previously.

In the past, this was one of, if not the first thing, to be sacrificed when budgets were tight.

Those organisations who did invest in proper acoustics however, really know the benefit they can provide to all users of the space. People can concentrate better, and, as a result, are more productive than those with poor acoustics who are always interrupted by background noise.

We believe more priority will be given to acoustics in the workplace, which is why we have specialist acousticians in our service offering.

7. Technology

Technology has triggered the remarkable changes that have happened to the workplace landscape over the past 15 years with interior and product designers taking advantage of the versatility and flexibility technology has afforded them.

The lockdown however, has had a different type of impact. Those companies who invested in cloud based technology as Rainbow had, were very pleased to find out how brilliant it was because it enabled everyone to work remotely with ease. If that was coupled with a VOIP phone system, the whole process was very smooth and clients had no idea where you were based.

It’s the same with Video Conference technology. Our solutions were very basic and relied on our laptops much like other companies. However, the installation of proper VC technology has been a game changer and made work-life so much easier.

This pandemic has proven that it’s more important than ever that companies must ensure their technology is up to date and are aware of all the latest products so they can potentially make use of them.

This is why Rainbow have partnered with an excellent AV consultancy.

8. Wellbeing

Wellbeing awareness, both physical and mental, has reached an all time high during the pandemic. Not only because of Covid, but because people have come to appreciate the benefit of being fit and healthy.

When people were allowed out of their homes to keep fit, the amount of runners and cyclists in the UK had never been so high!

Whilst this may have been a good excuse to get out, in reality, many people found they enjoyed their exercise and have carried it on.

Mental health in particular has benefitted from huge media coverage and this is a very positive outcome from the pandemic.

We have had many conversations with companies about creating spaces within the workplace where both physical and mental wellbeing can be worked on and supported. In particular with large organisations who have more space and more people.

We have also noticed a huge increase in Biophilic design, where we are being asked to incorporate the use of natural materials, wood and stone in particular as well as provide planting throughout the office.

These are all very positive steps and we believe they will continue to be used and incorporated.

9. Environment

We are being asked more than ever about the environmental credentials of the products we supply.
Companies want to ensure that the materials being used are from a replenishable source and are authorised and certified as evidence of this.

We are also regularly being asked to source locally manufactured goods. Whether this is a result of people’s awareness of the environment following the pandemic or due to Brexit, we are unsure. The fact is, we are having to purchase from our UK manufacturers more than ever before.

All the above changes to the workplace are, in truth, not a surprise, they were always going to happen. The difference is that the lockdown has accelerated these changes dramatically and companies are becoming aware of their importance much quicker than anticipated.

Rainbow have a history of staying ahead of changes in the workplace and over the years we have helped and coached our clients through the changes that have taken place.

The current pandemic is no exception, which is why we looked at the potential impending changes as soon as lockdown started and why we have already been helping companies improve their workplace landscape in order to benefit from these changes.

Please feel free to Contact Us if you would like to know more.