All digital or back to the office?

10 theses on the "new normal" of the world of work

The question of what will happen in German offices after the pandemic is currently on the mind of many employers. In cooperation with trend experts, room psychologists and workplace designers, the Industrieverband Büro und Arbeitswelt e.V. (Industrial Association for Offices and the World of Work) has drawn up ten theses on the "New Normal". 

Sep 13 2021

The spectrum of considerations ranges from new space concepts to increased home office quotas in the long term and the establishment of hybrid ways of working to completely new places of work. One consequence of the pandemic is that employees are also asking themselves where they can work most efficiently. Thus, new, individual requirements for a post-pandemic world of work are emerging. What exactly it will look like can currently only be guessed at on the basis of initial trends.  

1. The time of the standard office is over

Creative activities such as project work and innovation are gaining in importance, and this must also be reflected in the workplaces. People who come to the office today do not want to sit at their desks for eight hours in concentration. In many cases, this is also possible in a home office. At least as important is the exchange with colleagues and working together on projects. This requires suitable rooms for different activities and digital equipment.  

2. The office must attract employees 

When we go to the office in the future, it will also be about the added value of community - quality time with colleagues, in a working environment that is as pleasant as it is functional. Colours, light, acoustics, room layout and furnishings can improve mental and physical well-being. Those who create a good working atmosphere give employees a reason to come to the office and at the same time improve work efficiency. 

3. The perfect workplace can be anywhere 

Those who want to work flexibly do not necessarily have to limit themselves to the office and home office. If the tasks allow it, the reading room in the library, a sitting area in the park or a neighbourhood office can also provide the perfect working environment. So in the future, office and home office will only be parts of a range of different work locations. Nevertheless, good ergonomic and technical conditions should be emphasised for these regularly used workplaces. 

4. Working light 

In the long term, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and the like will replace stationary computers. In addition to the increasing flexibility of stationary workplaces, some employees will again work on the move, for example on the train. It must be possible to quickly create a good, ergonomic workstation at the workplaces that are regularly used. A cloud-based system and screens with docking station, keyboard and mouse form the digital basis for this. 

5. The human being in the centre 

At the latest since the pandemic, employees are increasingly concerned about their workplaces and thanks to smart assistance systems they will probably soon know exactly where they work most efficiently at which tasks. This means that the needs and requirements of employees in terms of their workplaces will finally come into focus. Work will also increasingly be done independently in the office, as it already is in the home office. Employees will continue to demand this autonomy they have gained. It is therefore important to design work processes and workplaces together.  

6. The office as a versatile offer 

The question of where employees work most efficiently is becoming increasingly important. The office offers most options in this respect - among other things as a place for joint learning, exchange and creative collaboration. Ideally, office space should support the various activities during the course of a working day by offering the appropriate space and equipment. Where the proportion of mobile working is high, desk sharing can be considered as a next step. This creates space for more communication areas and thus even more opportunities to experience the corporate culture. 

7. Video conferencing instead of long-distance travel 

Digital or hybrid meetings have already become an integral part of everyday working life in many places. And they will continue to be part of our everyday working lives in the future. For example, experts assume that even after the pandemic, up to 60 percent of all meetings will take place in hybrid form - i.e. with several participants on site and digitally connected persons. 

8. Hybrid only works with smart technologies 

Appropriate technology is needed for hybrid work. In a hybrid conference, both present and connected participants must be equally integrated. Intelligent technology is a prerequisite for this; above all, it must be intuitively usable without impairing the quality of stay of those present on site. Whether green screens, mobile screens or simply a room booking system, such technologies will be integrated into the premises and the work processes in the future.

9. The sound makes the (office) music 

Many participants in video conferences now impress their counterparts with hi-fi sound and suppression of ambient noise. This sets high standards, users of backward technology are unpleasantly out of the ordinary - "under-equipped" is the new under-dressed of the world of working. Yet the basis for good sound quality still lies in the room acoustics.

In rooms where a lot of communication takes place, the speaker must be heard clearly and intelligibly everywhere. Where work is concentrated, on the other hand, it is important to reduce interference from speaking colleagues. The design of the room and the correct arrangement of sound-absorbing elements must therefore be considered along with the technical equipment. 

10. The "New Normal" continues to change 

All work processes are constantly being rethought and optimised. So why should this not also apply to the office? The possibility of further changes should be considered at the planning stage. This is the only way office space can remain flexible and efficient in the long term and be ready for the day after tomorrow. 

Conclusion 

The new normal of the working world will be very heterogeneous. For some, there will have to be a "back to normal" at first because they are busy with other tasks, at least for the time being. Others have had a sniff of new opportunities and will try out what is possible as soon as possible.

Office and home office will not just coexist, but will be part of a larger offering that includes external work locations. In this context, employees will increasingly demand the right to decide for themselves where to work. Ultimately, successful integration of smart technologies is also an important aspect, as digital ways of working will continue to be part of everyday life. 

Further information, suggestions and expert opinions on current trends and the working world of the future can also be found on the IBA Forum, the IBA's digital topic platform. 

 

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