Post-COVID-19 planning:
How the role of
office gathering
areas will change

As companies plan office re-entry in a post-COVID-19 world, it begs the question: Will office gathering spaces ever be the same?

June 17, 2020

COVID-19 is causing company leaders to rethink how their businesses operate. Many

are carefully planning a safe re-entry into the workplace. But with social distancing, governmental mandates and safety recommendations at the core of this preparation, what will become of the crowded lunchroom? The popular benching arrangements? The informal, comfortable seating where coworkers gather?

Many aspects of these gathering spaces will change, at least in the short term.

How our use of the office has changed

Since enforcing remote work across the world, many businesses aren’t using their offices the same way.

As employees start a slow re-entry to the workplace, those in the office have a focused and deliberate reason for being there. It’s no longer necessary or expected to be in the office for a full 8-to-5 workday, nor is it assumed that an employee can’t complete their work without being “at work.”

Before COVID-19, two of the top three reasons people went to the office were “To attend scheduled meetings,” and “Because my role is perceived as office-based.”

Now, we’re seeing greater importance on using the office for intentional, connected activities. Otherwise, people can and should work from their homes.

But will this mindset have long-term effects?

Is the traditional office setup dead?

Ask Google and you’ll discover more than 1.5 billion results with the query, “Is the office dead?” Page one results feature in-depth musings from the likes of Fast Company, Business Insider, Inc. and other notable sources.

Being forced to take business operations remote has demonstrated to many business leaders that employees don't have to be in an office and at a desk to work. Moving forward, this shift will make it easier to strike a balance between flexible remote work options and being in the office.

But, when it comes to using office space, some aspects of the work environment are irreplaceable.

Gathering in the office has changed. Many other things won’t.

The role of office gathering spaces won’t change. People will always need a place to be inspired, brainstorm face-to-face, have spontaneous discussions that turn into million-dollar ideas, build relationships with their colleagues and learn extemporaneously from senior leadership.

Consider the things people miss most about the office, according to the survey mentioned above: “To collaborate informally with other people,” “To socialize with colleagues” and “To support the work of others.” In other words, connecting.

To that end, we don’t anticipate major, long-term changes in the approach to office floor plans or design. In many ways, we're planning for the short term. The apprehension and scientific necessity that drives social distancing likely won’t extend generationally.

Successful businesses will always see value in creating space for employees. So, the role of gathering in the office won’t change. But in the short term, you may just have to gather with a face mask and a safe social distance between yourself and your colleagues.

Find resources for safe workplace re-entry

Discover helpful resources for planning your company’s re-entry to the office here. Learn from webinars, in-depth research, thought leadership articles, and much more.