08:38 GMT09 August 2020
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    Property experts in the UK have on Wednesday warned that the demand for office space in city skyscrapers will be diminished, even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, following a major shift in the commercial property market.

    Looking at how workplaces across the country are expected to change, Sputnik spoke to Andrew Wallace, Program Director of Interior Architecture at the University of South Australia.

    Sputnik: What effect will the coronavirus have on new and existing workspaces?

    Andrew Wallace: I think from what we're seeing is that the effectiveness of our workspaces has become much more distributed. By that I mean, certainly in Australia anyway, that home working has been really popular.

    Over half our population have been working at home over our lockdown period and the evidence backs that there really seems to be no loss in productivity, and many people are actually enjoying it.

    I think what's likely to happen is in fact rather than everyone being located all the time in that city, you will see a high number of people actually working in parts of their week work from home and in parts of their week in the city offices.

    Sputnik: What changes can we expect to see in offices going forwards and will this change likely be permanent or simply just a flash in the pan?

    Andrew Wallace: Well, it'll be interesting to see what longevity is. The office evolves all the time to take into account changes in technology and changes in attitude towards how people work.

    I think what we will see, however, is less people working actually in the city offices, I think we'll see people working further apart. We'll see less emphasis on getting more people in per square metre and what we'll see is the need for more quiet spaces as well as more collaborative space inside of offices.

    We’ll see more quiet spaces because people are communicating broadly between people at home and people at work - if you want to call it that - we're going to need quiet spaces for that to happen.

    Video conferencing doesn't work in open-plan work areas. What it calls up is probably one of the key features of the actual centralised office might be about actually bringing people physically together.

    So, we'll need to have a combination of places where people can do that and a combination of places where people are required to actually communicate with people who are not directly in front of them.

    Sputnik: How will work change for employees amongst these new altered workspaces? For example, will employers embrace remote working and other flexible changes to employee working patterns?

    Andrew Wallace: In recent studies that I've seen, employers have found higher work satisfaction with working at home but it's not universal. There are people for whom working at home doesn't work at all.

    People with young children or people who don't have a place in their home where it's appropriate to work, or people that actually just like all the time being around people. One of the long term critiques of any form of open plan environment, and this could be from the office cubicle that you see on television through to sort of much more advanced agile workspaces, is that the group who are not well catered for are those who can't work around lots of noise.

    So those guys could actually well be better served by spending a bit of portion of their time at home during quiet work, and only coming into the workplace centrally to actually interact with people face to face. So then there actually could be quite a big change and actually how it works.

    It also points into the what sort of area that organisations will require in city areas and they will require a little bit less. They may need to look at actually how they set these spaces up because at the moment, the concerns lie around infection transmission around COVID-19, but quite honestly there's been long-running concerns around the costs of just the regular winter flu that come through in terms of loss of productivity for workers.

    I think that's the current thought for pandemics to get us thinking about while they're coming in to organise their workplaces in a way where we're touching less, interacting not quite so close face to face and making it a healthy work environment for everyone and dealing with those people who can't deal with the noise and that's a good percentage of current office workers.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    property, Australia, workplace, coronavirus, COVID-19
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