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Why COVID-19 doesn’t mark the end of communal offices

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Despite some industry predictions that remote work will continue long after the 2020 pandemic, architecture and design expert Richard Fenne argues that communal offices are here to stay

The COVID-19 global pandemic caused many countries to go into lockdown this year, and as a result, working from home (WFH) became the norm for many companies. 

Indeed, employers and job seekers alike appear to be adapting to the new way of doing business, with LinkedIn reporting that global employers posted 2.5 more remote-work roles from March onwards this year, and 60% more job seekers used the ‘remote’ filter in their job searches over the same time period. 

According to Richard Fenne, however, the Principal and Regional Executive Chair at Woods Bagot, communal offices and in-person meetings will once again become the de facto way of conducting business in a post-pandemic world.

“Many people pose the question, ‘if you can be anywhere to work, why do you need to be somewhere?’” said Fenne, speaking at Cityscape's Real Estate Summit 2020. “But there are many reasons why working collaboratively in person outperforms remote work or working from home.”

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“Being in an office matters, it is about being part of a community... Everything is better in person. Creativity and collaboration is easier in a shared space,” he continued. “We need to remember that 70% of communication is non-verbal. We also give up the learning experiences that we have from being around one another, when we work remotely from home.”

However, Fenne also argued that just because communal offices will return, it does not mean that they need to look like the offices prior to the pandemic. The award-winning architect suggested that companies could learn from the experiences of 2020, and create a hybrid model for business which mixes communal office time with remote work to find the best balance for their individual company needs.


He also suggested that offices of the future would look and feel different to those prior to 2020: “Elements that people have enjoyed from their time working remotely, such as increased natural daylight and better access to outdoor spaces can all be incorporated in the offices of the future.

“Sustainability, wellness in the workplace, and ultimately human beings are at the core of offices that we will see in the future,” Fenne concluded. 

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