Countrywide, measures are being taken to make places in all areas of life COVID-secure, and we can firmly say that office spaces are no exception.
We recently surveyed London’s top flexible office providers on how they’ve adapted their workspaces in response to coronavirus. We gained insights from operators of all shapes and sizes—from big brands to independent workspaces; from those with one boutique space to those with numerous sites across the city.
Across the board, we were hugely impressed by the speed and efficiency with which operators have implemented measures that ensure the safety of their tenants. Workspaces are responding quickly to government regulations, as well as implementing some of their own, innovative solutions, to make it safe for businesses to return to the workplace.
By sharing the results of our survey below, we aim to help other workspace providers and users adapt their own physical office environments in similarly efficient ways.
We also hope that the measures detailed below will reassure businesses themselves that office providers are taking coronavirus seriously. We know that many are worried about returning to the office, and hope that the knowledge that their fears have been heard and acted upon will take some of the anxiety out of the eventual back-to-work process.
Here’s what we asked, and how providers responded—then scroll down for more insights:
Which of the following measures will you introduce to enable social distancing?
Which of the following measures will you implement to improve safety and hygiene for your occupiers?
By prioritising social distancing
We already know that enforcing social distancing in the office is hugely important to employees going back to work, and this has been reflected in the measures put in place by workspace providers in a number of ways:
More space between workstations
An impressive 81% of the office providers we surveyed have adjusted their layouts to allow occupiers to work further apart, whilst 75% have reduced the seating density of their shared spaces. This applies to communal areas (for example, where hot desks are located), as well as private offices.
For instance, some workspaces who currently have empty offices are encouraging their existing clients to use them free-of-charge so that they can spread their team further apart.
A general aversion to desk-sharing amongst office-goers has meant that 33% of workspace providers will be stopping hot-desking in the short-term to avoid the risk of infection—and 14% will be stopping hot-desking permanently. For those who will still offer shared workstations, efforts are being made to reduce contamination using methods such as disposable desk mats, which can be discarded and changed after use, or by signalling which workspaces should be used to maintain a safe distance.
Some providers have closed shared meeting rooms altogether, whilst others have limited the number of people able to use them, by way of simple yet effective measures such as removing chairs or increasing signage. Those who have kept them open have done so to ensure there are still areas available for members to conduct private meetings and calls.
Minimising contact in communal areas
Whilst the community-feel of serviced offices is amongst its strongest assets, it also presents some of the biggest challenges when it comes to coronavirus.
Communal spaces with high foot traffic are where workspace occupiers risk coming into contact with the most “unknown” people, so providers are working hard to introduce measures that mitigate this. In fact, 17% have gone so far as to close communal areas altogether for the foreseeable future.
61% have reduced the maximum occupancy in lifts (for example, by ensuring that the lift is only used for going up and the stairs for going down), whilst 58% have introduced one-way flows through buildings, with the help of signage and floor markings. Some providers, such as Workspace, are also providing signage resources for businesses themselves, that they can download and install in their own private offices.
Half of the providers we surveyed have installed temporary screens for reception desks, whilst 37% have introduced temporary screens to separate occupiers from each other.
Other communal areas, such as toilets, have been taken into consideration as well. Some workspaces have cordoned off middle cubicles, to reduce capacity.
Fewer people allowed in at any one time
From a wider perspective, a number of workspaces have introduced measures to reduce the number of people in their buildings full stop, thus making social distancing easier in general.
43% have reduced occupancy levels, employing methods such as asking tenants to give advance notice of how many of them will be coming to the office, so that they can plan accordingly. 17% have introduced “company rotas”, assigning different days to different occupiers, to reduce the number of people in their buildings at any one time.
On the other side of the fence, 40% have reduced onsite staffing levels to reduce foot traffic, whilst also ensuring the safety of their own teams as well.
Helping members avoid public transport
One key cause for concern amongst businesses right now is using public transport to get to work, so it’s great to see so many workspaces putting measures in place to help tenants commute in the safest way possible.
Half of our respondents said that they are providing additional parking or bike facilities to help occupiers walk, run, or cycle to work where possible.
Some providers, such as The Boutique Workplace, are also offering multi-location access passes, meaning that members have the option to use workspaces closer to home and minimise long commutes.
By increasing hygiene and safety measures
Maintaining a clean environment
In our recent survey around what would make employees feel safer going back to the office, the top result was the introduction of daily antiviral cleaning. As such, it’s reassuring to see that 83% of workspace respondents stated that they will be introducing this—and 16% have even gone so far as to install antiviral air filtration, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in air circulation.
Minimising surface contamination
Given that coworking spaces usually offer many shared facilities and utensils, reducing the risk of contamination through these is a key focus for providers.
93% will be making hand sanitiser available in multiple locations around their buildings, to encourage members to keep their hands virus-free, and over half (56%) said that they are also limiting or adjusting the use of high-touch items and equipment (for example, lift controls, printers or whiteboards) in their spaces.
27% said they will be removing shared crockery and cups, whilst some have taken the alternative approach of providing extra facilities, such as additional microwave ovens and coffee machines, to assist in social distancing and reduce the number of people touching each appliance.
Universal safety measures
Many workspace providers are also implementing universal safety measures to ensure the safety of every one of their members. For instance, just under half (48%) are implementing a compulsory hand-washing on entrance policy, 14% are conducting temperature checking on entrance, and 14% will expect all members to wear a mask.
Mindspace has even gone so far as to introduce a health-tracker service—offering an ‘opt-in’ service for their member companies. The app helps them track their employees’ health by sending them daily reminders to fill in a health declaration, making this information accessible for the employer.
By acting fast
Even when faced with significant and unexpected challenges, London’s flexible office industry has risen to the occasion in a short space of time, proving itself more than capable of acting fast in response to external factors.
Tushar Agarwal, our CEO and Co-founder said, “It’s incredible how fast London’s flexible office providers are adapting their services in line with Government guidelines as well as what businesses need in both the short and long-term.
Covid-19 has caused a seismic shift in how we think about office space, and the speed with which the respondents to our survey are reacting is testimony to their understanding of their customers’ needs.”
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