Workspace or wellness place? Office designs shift in COVID-19 environment

Employees want to see re-designed spaces dedicated to health and collaboration post pandemic.

August 12, 2020

CHICAGO, Aug. 11, 2020 – Employee health and workplace hygiene are top considerations for companies re-entering the workplace and are playing a pivotal role in shaping occupational density trajectory. Employers are looking to new technologies to enhance office environments as COVID-19 has put into question the appeal of highly dense, large, open-plan offices. While the upward trend in office density has sharply reversed as social distancing is adhered to, once a vaccine or effective treatment is available, JLL predicts the extreme de-densification levels seen on initial re-entry to ease back (but certainly not all the way) to pre-COVID-19 levels. But, one thing’s for certain, the office itself will look very different. 

According to a post-COVID workplace survey by Big Red Rooster, a JLL company, 94 percent of employees want the option to return to the physical office, indicating that remote work should augment, not replace, traditional offices. The same survey found that out of workplaces, restaurants, and retail locations, respondents trust workplaces the most in terms of safety, reaffirming a positive outlook for the future of office demand. 

Employee well-being is at the center of office modifications underway.  Desks spaced six feet apart will become table stakes, along with added physical barriers, improved air filtration systems and one-way traffic flow signage. 

Reinforce safety with purposeful choreography of the space

“We can never fully go back to the way we were before,” said Aaron Spiess, Executive Vice President and Founder at Big Red Rooster. “Success is reimagining a workplace where employees can return and flourish. Though they will not feel ‘normal’ right away, safety measures should be thoughtfully programmed. The right precautions in place will offer employees confidence in their return to work.”

Big Red Rooster is currently working with companies to promote health and well-being through materials and design, positioning workstations to maximize natural light, incorporating naturally antimicrobial materials in furniture and installing private nooks for mental breaks with calming colors and scents.  

Promote health and well-being through materials and design

Smart technologies are also redefining “me space” vs “we space” through touch-free options at common contact points, including mobile apps that control lighting, temperature and AV equipment, as well as doors and elevators that open with corporate badges instead of a handle, and touchless sanitation stations that dispense hand sanitizer. As companies look to de-densify former meeting spaces to maintain social distancing, mobile apps will also offer employees the option to reserve their own space or receive visitor alerts direct to their phone.

On the other hand, post-COVID offices will go beyond physical design and technological innovation, driving interactions and tasks which technology cannot replicate. A recent survey from employment platform Monster found that over two-thirds of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home, indicating the positive effects the away-from home and in-person work experience can have on mental health. 

“The office will shift to become less about sitting in a desk all day and more so as a safe place for colleagues to collaborate, engage and interact,” said Todd Burns, President, Project and Development Services, JLL Americas. “For some, it will be key to their emotional wellness in such unprecedented times.”

As part of its commitment to fostering an enduring culture of health and well-being, JLL recently announced two programs to enable safer, healthier workplaces. 

About JLL

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. JLL shapes the future of real estate for a better world by using the most advanced technology to create rewarding opportunities, amazing spaces and sustainable real estate solutions for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $18.0 billion in 2019, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of nearly 93,000 as of June 30, 2020. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit