Maysoon El-Ahmad, April 2020


With social distancing measures now in place, the way we work has undergone a massive transformation in just over a month. The most notable has impacted workers who have shifted from working in an office environment to working from home.

While we don’t know the long-term impact of COVID-19, we are already starting to see glimpses of what a post lockdown world of work looks like while the pandemic continues to linger on.

Not the death of the office, but remote work is becoming a permanent feature

  • Remote work on a mass scale has been imposed on us by Covid-19. The fears many have had of working away from the office have been disproven. We now have a case that remote working can and does work.
  • This is supported by some of our most senior business leaders such as CBA’s CEO Matt Comyn who recently stated on ABCs Q&A panel, “we’ve got 23,000 people, at the Commonwealth Bank, working from home at the moment.. we wouldn’t have believed that we could scale to that level, it has been amazing”.
  • Optus have also just announced that work-at-home measures will become a permanent feature of Australia-based call centre workers

Welcome to the socially distant workplace

As governments look to the road ahead, businesses are getting ready to come out of lockdown

WeWork have proposed changes to its shared workspaces ahead of lockdown measures being lifted

  • Creating ‘one way’ primary circulation paths to avoid bottlenecks in hallways
  • Providing ‘buffer seating’ in private offices to allow for adequate distance
  • Adjusting common area layouts and supplementing with additional large suites
  • Introducing new capacity loads in lounge areas and meeting rooms
  • Adding sanitization stations and wipe dispensers in common spaces

Netherlands company Cushman & Wakefield have developed a new concept called the Six Feet Office

  • Using arrows on the floor, employees walk only in clockwise lanes around the office
  • Beacons will be installed to track the movements of employees throughout the office via their phones. Data will be used to help assess the efficacy of its design e.g. are people getting too close? They may be used to audibly alert people when they break the invisible six-foot barrier
  • Employees use paper desk placemats they throw away at the end of the day

In China,

  • Many offices are running in rotational shifts to keep the number of people in an office at any one time to a minimum
  • Factory workers at Ford are testing out wristbands that buzz when people come within 6 feet of each other

The digital workplace accelerates

  • COVID-19 has accelerated the move towards a digital workplace, forcing some workplaces to condense their long-term digital transformation strategies down to just weeks.
  • This has seen workplaces across the board from education to healthcare become web conferencing experts overnight. From students, teachers, nurses to knowledge workers, Zoom has become a household name overnight.


  • As we embrace and adapt to this new world, the way we work will continue to evolve and append itself.  The pandemic will prove to be a challenge to ‘placed-based’ working which we predict will result in new social norms emerging in the coming months.
    • The pendulum swings away from open-plan offices: While open-plan offices have received a share of backlash in recent years (e.g. noisy, unproductive) COVID-19 will further accelerate this resistance. With a focus on hygiene, we expect to see workplaces move towards smaller, confined ‘cubicle’ based workspaces of the previous decades.
    • The rise of smart office buildings: the use of smart sensors and data will accelerate. Smart technology will be used to help access, alert and predict when buildings become over-crowded, or social distancing measures breached
    • Move towards staged and blended workplaces: While office buildings won’t become redundant, the way we use them will change. Workers will come into buildings in waves and phases to prevent over-crowding while certain jobs will remain place-based due to the nature of the role they play.
    • The nine to five working day could be a thing of the past: With governments implementing social distancing measures to avoid rush hour crowds along with remote work becoming the new way of work, this could see the end of set working hours towards a more fragmented workday.
    • Heightened focus on employee wellbeing: hygiene and employee digital and mental health will accelerate as people over profits takes priority as we continue to live in the shadows of COVID-19
    • The need for creative thinking and collaboration: while new technology tools has brought down many barriers to working remotely, one thing it doesn’t replace is the creative energy generated when people physically collaborate on solving problems together.  We believe the office will play a key role in being a facilitator in creating the right environment to spark the best ideas.
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