Five things that will change about the office environment in 2020
Like many people, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how office life will change when we go back into the office. Whilst it is great spending more time with the kids, I am hoping we can go back in soon! I believe that when we can to go in, there will be a few changes which will happen fairly quickly, and these are my predictions:
Firstly, the touch. When you go back into the office, will you ever have thought about touching things as much? Will you look at your desk in the same way? I think people will think twice before touching anything, from door handles, to fridge doors, coffee machines, taps, and lift buttons.
We have already seen articles from China of new holographic lift buttons to stop people pressing them physically, and reports from Hong Kong of a new self-disinfecting door handle, as well as touch-free taps. I think we will see a proliferation of contactless technologies in offices this year.
We will want to really know that the office has been cleaned. In the Gensler U.S. workplace survey 2020, 10% of 5,000 workers surveyed had no assigned seat. More dynamic work environments encourage workers to use different seats each day to complete different tasks.
During these surveys, a key concern raised was the cleanliness of shared workstations. In the new world, we will want to see some evidence that our space has been properly cleaned.
This could be some type of check with geolocation system where cleaners have to check-in physically, or digitally, that a cleaning routine has been completed. Such processes have been commonplace in maintaining WCs for a while.
What about preventing virus entry into buildings? We could see a rise in thermal imaging technologies, which flag when someone is running temperature to security. These technologies were commonplace in Hong Kong after the SARS epidemic in 2003, and I expect, that they will become more widespread globally.
We predict that also, touch-free entry and egress systems such as facial recognition biometrics will rise in popularity, as people will not want to touch a card or a reader (or anything).
Then there are the air systems, never will a heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system face such scrutiny, will your office be in the sweet spot in which viruses and bacteria cannot easily spread? How are you going to assure your staff that this is being monitored correctly and closely?
The chart below illustrates the optimal humidity range for minimizing adverse health impacts — do you know where your office sits?
This will give a whole new meaning to Herzberg’s hygiene factors for business continuity. CO2 levels, which are a good proxy for fresh air, will also need to be monitored carefully. We will not be able to jam ten people into a six-person meeting room for two hours with no fresh air again — people will demand to have real-time information on environmental health at their fingertips.
Below is a screenshot from Symbiosy, a technology and sensorics platform, showing a 3D floorplan of our office and real-time CO2 levels across the office.
Accurate and transparent monitoring will be an inevitable tool to maintain good levels of air quality. Real-time monitoring also supports compliance/certification for health & wellness standards like WELL & RESET.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that we are all in this together. People can cooperate on a global scale to protect and support one another. However, as an industry, the property needs to play our part in building trust that we are dealing with the issues that this crisis has highlighted. Proactively implementing the latest technologies to reduce risks now will be vital in safeguarding our teams from what is a potential threat to our way of life.
Consideration of the above factors may go some way towards safeguarding us against these new risks and building trust with people in their work environments, so we can go back to as close to a normal routine as quickly as possible.
Author: Gilbert Lennox-King, Symbiosy Sales Director, HB Reavis
 Herzberg, Frederick & Mausner, Bernard, 1920- & Snyderman, Barbara Bloch (1993). The motivation to work. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A