Trips to the office could become more “social affairs” say architects
Despite the end of the Covid-19 pandemic clearly in sight with the start of vaccination programmes from the New Year, the workplace landscape for some small and medium-size companies may have changed forever.
The pandemic may not have invented the drift towards more flexible working conditions, but the widespread adoption of digital platforms such as Zoom for holding staff and progress meetings on projects has certainly been accelerated by the crisis, with some organisations believing that working from home will become a new post-pandemic norm.
Lisbon-based architect Pedra Silva Architects (PSA) is one such firm that believes working practices have changed irrevocably forever.
A such, it has launched a specialist ‘Return-to-Office’ consultancy service helping firms guard against pandemics like Covid-19.
The practice, which is responsible for delivering many high-profile office projects – including the OLX Group Headquarters and Fraunhofer Offices, both in Portugal – is predicting a major transformation to working conditions in the months and years ahead.
PSA Lead Architect Ricardo Conceição said the firm is advising a number of clients including a major global tech firm with strategies which can be replicated across multiple sectors, including Commercial Office, Hospitality, Leisure, Retail, Dental and Health sectors.
“We have witnessed a massive shift in the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace,” he said. “This is now the top priority for almost all organisations from SMEs to global corporates. However, very few workplaces were prepared for the devastating consequences of Covid-19 pandemic and we are having to act retrospectively.
“The nature of the virus means organisations need to reconsider many aspects of their operation such as movement, density and shielding of people. Our team has been working closely with clients to optimise their workspaces to protect their workforces while crucially maximising efficiency. We are building strong experience and quickly learning how to adapt and tailor floorplans combining our expertise in workspace design with a new bank of ‘post-Covid’ workplace management knowledge.
PSA Founder Luis Pedra Silva said Portugal’s return to office work may also be defined by a rise in ‘suburban office hubs’ as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While more people will naturally work from home many will still require a flexible professional office solution,” he said. “This may give rise to a new generation of suburban office hubs. These are likely to be located in more remote areas catering for people who no longer wish to travel large distances to work. Essentially, this could begin a movement away from traditional single unit headquarters, to a cluster of more widely distributed office spaces.
“Corporate companies may also reap benefits from flexible working patterns relieving the burden of fixed office space. In this sense, designers could witness a large spike in home office projects, as people look to recondition rooms and spaces within their own homes to make them more compatible for work, with trips to the office becoming more social affairs.”
PSA was founded in 2003 in Lisbon, Portugal, later establishing offices in Brighton, UK and Maputo, Mozambique. The boutique design team includes 16 members from five countries, delivering high quality projects around the world including Europe, Africa and Australasia.