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Dave Carter
Dave Carter
  • 4 Minute Read
  • 15th December 2021

Flexible workspaces help office workers through challenging times

On Wednesday 8th December 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Plan B restrictions to combat the spread of the Omicron variant. “From Monday you should work from home if you can. Go to work if you must but work from home if you can” said the Prime Minister.

This will be the case for at least six weeks, but the state of play will be reviewed on Wednesday 5 January 2022, according to Sajid Javid Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Businesses across the UK are hoping that the Plan B measures, and unprecedented booster vaccination campaign will be effective, and the guidance can be revoked sooner rather than later.

The guidance stops short of making this a legal requirement. This means that companies can still allow staff who either cannot or do not wish to work from home to come into the office.

Growing concerns about psychological impacts

Given growing concerns about the psychological impact of almost two years of restrictions, there are reports that employers appear to be taking a more flexible approach than was seen in the early months of 2020. Some large national employers have indicated they will allow workers to continue to come to the office, if they have mental health needs, or if they are unable to work from home, as well as for business-critical reasons. Insurer Aviva, which employs around 5,000 staff in Norwich, said: “For our colleagues who can’t work from home, for whatever reason, our offices will remain open, safe and secure."

Half of US workers are looking forward to returning to work

In a recent survey of 1,000 full time US workers by Workhuman, more than three out of four workers said their companies are still moving forward with return-to-the-office plans in January, despite the recent spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and many workers seeking permanent remote work.

Amid the challenges, more than half of employees said they were “excited” or “happy” to be heading back to work. A smaller number were unhappy, 15% said they were anxious and 8% said return-to-work plans were causing stress.

Flexible workspaces are ready when you are

For those team members who need to spend some time in the office, flexible workspaces are fulfilling the requirements of many. Flexible office operators have complete oversight and control of the office building’s administration, and flexible workspaces have been able to adapt rapidly to the latest COVID-19 safety advice.

Flexible workspaces are ready-to-move-in spaces, managed by an operator with services and amenities on tap. Flexible office spaces include serviced offices, private offices, coworking, hot desk and member access facilities. Flex offices represent some of the safest workspaces for those needing time in the office.

Here’s a range of the health and safety measures you can expect to find in a modern flexible office space:

• Safer distancing – Workstation layouts have been modified to allow for social distancing

• Handwashing and sanitisation – Multiple hand sanitisation stations located throughout the building.

• Temperature checks – Non-invasive visitor temperature checks.

• Free face masks – Face masks provided in support of health and safety policy guidelines.

• Safer Ventilation – Upgraded HVAC systems and fresh air flows.

• Signage and one-way systems – Floor tape, stickers, seating guides and directional signage.

• Wellness and health programmes – Wellness members’ programmes targeting physical and mental health.

• Enhanced cleaning – Enhanced cleaning protocols, frequency and products.

• Safer shared facilities – Capacity, distancing and usage controls across shared facilities.

Popular flexible workspace options

There are a number of workspace options within the flexible format that are proving popular during these challenging times.

• Membership Access Packages - Membership access passes are becoming increasingly popular. These are packages offered by flexible workspace operators which allow members to use any of their office locations on an ad hoc basis. Many are available on “pay as you use” or monthly subscription terms meaning you can get access when you need it, to quality, affordable office space, anywhere in the world.

• Hot desking - Hot desking is a growing trend. Hot desks are unallocated shared workspaces that you can use on an ad hoc basis. It’s a flexible alternative to traditional office rental that means you can take a desk as it suits you, without having to pay sky-high monthly rents. It’s a great solution for start-ups or remote workers looking for affordable on demand office space.

• Flexible “Hub and Spoke” offices - A growing number of business leaders are now looking to adopt a ‘hub and spoke’ office model as more of their staff work from home. New research reveals that more than a third (37%) of business leaders are considering downsizing their primary office space and creating smaller satellites closer to where their employees live.

The ‘hub’ or HQ remains in a city centre – albeit smaller – but continues to act as the ‘face’ of the brand, where client and larger team meetings can be held. ‘Spokes’ are much smaller and versatile regional flexible offices closer to where employees live – often designed in a flexible format to accommodate a variety of different teams.

Standard Chartered PLC is one of the early adopters of the “work near home” approach. The emerging markets bank says it will “push the boundaries” for half of its 85,000 staff, who work in nine of the 55 countries where it operates. In 2021, it’s offering those employees the option of heading to a “near home” location, which it will rent from a flexible workspace provider.

Wellness programmes target mental health

The toll that the first nationwide lockdown had on workers’ mental health has been well documented, and flexible office space providers are keen to combat the expected fallout from this and subsequent COVID restrictions.

In addition to implementing the latest safety guidelines within flex offices, many flexible workspace operators provide COVID-19 secure wellness and health programmes to help keep workers’ minds healthy as well as their bodies.

Brighter, more flexible futures

Looking to the future, a business may grow or shrink in terms of the number of employees. Working patterns may change or life-changing events like COVID-19 may occur. It’s in these uncertain times companies want to build in agility to their property portfolio to address the realities of today’s fast-moving and unpredictable business world. Flexible workspaces provide that opportunity.

Richard Smith, Founder and CEO of Office Freedom commented “with the government advice being what it is, and COVID-19 secure measures an absolute must, companies are able to demand more from office space than ever before. At the same time businesses are turning away from traditional leasing towards more agile workspace which offers a viable, safe and flexible alternative to home working.”