Office spaces have changed dramatically over the past few decades. From Mad Men-era corner offices to cramped cubicles to startup-style open floor plans, societal trends continue to change how we work.
Many of these trends happen over time, with some companies leading the way and laggards eventually following suit. However, 2020 saw a drastic shift to remote work as the COVID-19 pandemic closed offices and put families into lockdown. While business owners were eager to return to the office at first, many are now reconsidering that plan.
This year has debuted the latest workplace trend: the down-sized office, along with its more dramatic counterpart: no office at all.
Even if the pandemic ended tomorrow and everyone could return to pre-2020 levels of socializing, a large portion of your team members likely wouldn’t want to return to the office. There was a significant remote work trend even before the pandemic, and now employees have proof that their productivity won’t drop just because they aren’t in the office.
According to a survey by The Grossman Group, a leadership and communications consulting firm, 48% of employees working from home now say they would like to continue working from home, even after the pandemic passes.
Even if your employees return to the office, they might want to set up an agreement for partial remote work. For example, they could work remotely 2–3 days per week or do half-days in the office to help with their childcare situations.
With the workforce becoming increasingly remote, you have an opportunity to downsize your physical office space.
A few years ago, hot desking became a popular trend. The idea was that no employee had a dedicated workspace. Instead, when they came into the office, they found an open desk and used that space for the day. This freedom gave the previously static office area a coffee-shop feel. You grabbed an open seat and hoped for the best.
There are many thought-pieces on the web criticizing hot desking. These critics say there is never enough room if the whole team is in the office and it is much harder to find someone you need to reach. However, as more companies move to remote work and flexibility, downsizing and using a hot-desk approach may make sense.
At any given point, 40% of an office’s dedicated desk space sits unused. During this time, the desk is empty because employees are on vacation or sitting in back-to-back meetings. A position vacancy can also leave a desk vacant for months. During this time, you still pay rent for the space even though it isn’t contributing to your profits.
When hot desking meets remote work, you don’t need desks for each employee. You only need space for a third of the capacity—maybe even less. Taking this approach can create a place for team members to work while also saving your company money. Just make sure you have a meeting space that fits your whole team in case you ever need to conduct an all-hands-on-deck meeting or company event.
If you are considering a hot-desk situation or letting your employees work remotely full-time, develop a plan to figure out what downsizing looks like for your business. You may want to create a committee to evaluate the viability of this option and to lead the project if it comes to fruition.
A few things to consider include:
Know that the downsizing process could take several months to reach completion. Not only do you need to review your current lease agreement, but you need to search for a new location, sign a new contract, and begin the moving process.
Realistically, you might not move into your new office space until early 2021—if not later. However, by making plans now, you can prepare your employees and ensure you find something that meets your needs.
2020 has been the year for change—whether you wanted it to be or not. You have seen how quickly your employees adapt and overcome challenges within your organization. Use this time to consider the future of your workspace and the expenses that come with it. Downsizing or going fully remote could help you save in the long run without affecting productivity.