Do we still need an office?

All of a sudden when the lockdown began, 37 per cent of Flemish people* began working from home. It took some getting used to, however, we are now witnessing the many advantages: less moving around and less stress, more time for the family. So why should we still go to the office?

If one thing became clear during the lockdown, it’s that working from home works. Many employers noticed that there was little impact on the quality of work. Employees are also fans: no more getting stuck in traffic jams meaning less stress and an efficient use of time, a smaller ecological footprint and a better work-life balance.

However, the story is not a complete success: one in three employers also had negative feelings about working from home **. We miss our chats at the coffee machine, our communal lunches, ‘real’ meetings, ... In other words: we can’t manage entirely without physical contact with our colleagues. The office remains an essential workplace. Although perhaps we no longer need to go there every day.

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The office as a meeting place

So we still really need offices. Top designer and trendwatcher Alain Gilles: “Be sure to provide enough individual work stations. Also, take a close look at meeting rooms: are they large enough to satisfy social distancing? Make your office a place for customers and colleagues to gather, a source of inspiration and a place where everyone can exchange ideas.”

Corporate identity

There is another very good reason why the physical office remains important: for ‘corporate identity’ or the emotional bond we have with our employer. Alain: “We’ll spend less time in the office, so it’s important to have a good relationship and connection with the company and our colleagues. This certainly applies to large companies. In the ‘war for talent’ an authentic company image can make all the difference in attracting ‘the best brains’. A fancy office and warm company culture can help in achieving this.”

Also, the ‘sense of belonging’ is nurtured in the office. It develops with the team spirit, one team going for the same goal. This type of unity is impossible to achieve if everyone continuously works from home, even if you spend the entire day in video meetings with colleagues. Alain: “Going to the office needs to be a full experience, which makes people happy, even just because they can see their colleagues in the flesh.”

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The ‘home office’

Some businesses are already doing this: offering the opportunity to swap a company car for a proper home office. Will this become a trend? Things don’t yet seem to be heading in that direction. Siska: “We are receiving many requests from employees who wish to redesign a room in their home to make it multipurpose: as an office by day and a bedroom by night.”

For Alain Gilles it’s also logical that employers are keen to devote more budget to helping people optimise their home-working environment: “I assume that employers will invest more in decent and ergonomic office furniture for those working from home.” 

Or how about a garden office? Read more on the subject in our file with the most innovative cases about the office of the future. 

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*source ERGMB (Economic Risk Management Group)
**based on a study by SD Worx

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