We’re sure that we are no means alone when we say that 2020 was the most disruptive and challenging year of this generation. Whilst it is easy to look at the negative impacts the pandemic has had on our lives, I think it is important to look at what we can learn from it and how these challenging times will pave the ways of working for oncoming generations. In the time many of us have spent out of the office throughout the lockdown periods, we have been given a unique opportunity to reflect on our ways of working.

Although there has been a lot of noise about the office being dead and that home working is here to stay forever, in reality, a lot of the perks of home working have definitely worn thin and we’re ready to get back to the office.

Speaking to HR directors and Chief People Officers from a range of companies from large corporates to tech start-ups, it was very interesting to hear what their thoughts were on the office and how it will be used going forward.

It comes as no surprise that one of the biggest things we all long for, are those spontaneous social interactions with colleagues and the ease of having face to face collaboration sessions without the barrier of being stuck behind a computer screen. Whilst open plan workspaces and increased collaboration zones have become a growing trend over the past few years, we are likely to see this trend grow significantly over the coming months.

Since a recent survey showed that 35% of the UK workforce would opt for a half-way house and work from home half of the week, it is obvious we won’t be needing as many desk spaces with office occupancy being reduced.

This gives more room for collaboration zones, meeting rooms, breakout spaces and leisure spaces. What’s great about this more open plan style workspace is that social distancing can be much more easily facilitated whilst maintaining a sense of being in a collaborative, sociable working environment.

One thing that companies all over the world are recognising as a result of this global pandemic is the growing need to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff both physically and mentally. Angela Williams, Chief People Officer at Crossrail, said mental health and resilience has been a key area of focus over the past month for them.

The pandemic has had an enormous impact on people’s mental health and employers and those in HR have found this one of the biggest challenges of the year, especially where the majority of their workforce are working from home.

When you think that we spend around a third of our life at work, you can see the importance that wellbeing in the workplace has on people’s lives. The workplace itself can have a very considerable impact on the wellbeing of staff. Below are some suggestions of how companies could adapt their workplaces for the future to put people first:

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