News & Insights

Re-evaluating workplace design

25th May 2021

A drastic re-evaluation of workplace design, and of office space in particular, has been brought about by the pandemic. However, whilst many of these design notions have been accelerated by the virus, some have emerged in direct response to the challenges created by it.

Part of this whole discussion has stemmed from questioning whether society requires so many physical workplaces at all. Surely, after the 12-month working from experiment, fuelled by online orders from retailers and takeaways from food venues, we need never to return to the office or high street?

But this normality has become the greatest ordeal for many – losing the separation between home and work life whilst missing the integration with society, friends and colleagues in social situations.

The new workplace needs to account for these societal shifts, becoming “a destination” that is safe, healthy and inspirational.



The density of commercial space use may never be the same. The amount of space designated to an individual customer or employee has risen greatly since March 2020. Primarily driven by the need to be socially distant from other individuals, stores and offices have generally restricted the numbers permitted entry to their premises.

Some hospitality venues may look to overhaul their business altogether and will change their occupation to reflect this. The number of customers permitted into the premises may be limited in favour of an expansion of the food preparation area and a shift in the business model to one predominantly focused on takeaways.

Likewise, the rise of e-commerce has meant that many retailers may look to split their occupation between retail space for walk-in customers and fulfilment areas for “click and collect” orders.

Comparatively, in an office environment, many businesses now believe that there will be less individuals within the workplace at any one time due to the greater acceptance of staff working from home (WFH).


Flexibility for traditionally desk-based staff is key. Whether this is within the workplace or whether it is simply the ability to achieve the same productivity, and quality of work, from the office or home.

Hybrid models of working for office-based businesses, where staff work from home 1-4 days per week, may well become standard practice; some even argue that businesses that fail to offer this may actually deter talent.

This may impact the amount of space required by commercial occupiers. Some believe that businesses will never need to accommodate 100% of staff again and the size of the workplace they require will be a lot less than before WFH became prevalent.

Alternatively, some businesses are assessing whether a “hub and spoke” model, where one central location is bolstered by multiple satellite offices in traditional leased or flexibly licensed space, could work for their staff.

Agile working

Conversely, the amount of circulation space factored into the design of these workplaces is also increasing. Potentially, the need to circulate more is also increasing. Instead of banks and banks of desks in offices, agile working – the ability to work wherever – has become a key inclusion in larger designs.

Often, hot desking areas, quiet zones or collaborative spaces can be booked with an internal app across single or multiple office locations.

Similarly, the appreciation of mental health means that many businesses may look to create tech-free zones or meetings that encourage staff to leave their laptops and phone out of arms reach.


Corporate identity

Creating a workplace that enhances the corporate identity of the business that occupies it is also conducive to nurturing creativity and promoting productivity amongst the staff that work there.

Increased investment in quality can create a prime commercial space and a welcoming environment that is more likely to offer an experience or “a destination” to visitors and customers.

Similarly, taking a sustainable approach to design and furniture is a key consideration for most employees. Sustainable initiatives are another string to the bow of businesses; it can help to attract talent and customers whilst providing another differentiator from competitors.


A greater appreciation of health has meant that many more employees are opting to run or cycle into work rather than take public transport. Consequently, the need for buildings to provide adequate amenities like bike racks, showers and lockers has become more necessary than ever.

Many landlords had already begun to convert basement floors (the least valuable from a leasing perspective) into areas that provided these amenities, now it is clear that they were ahead of the trend.

Additionally, hospitality businesses will seek property that has the ability to offer customers outdoor space. The more fortunate hospitality and leisure businesses were able to accommodate customers far better, and sooner, than their indoor-only competitors.



Technology will be an integral consideration for the workplace, providing a more cohesive experience to link those working from other locations to those based in the central office.

Similarly, many businesses are opting to enhance their central office with greater investment into IT/AV technology. This “hub and club” model designates the office as a space for meetings, presentations and collaboration.

Additionally, an expansion in the use of the Internet of Things will tie-in with greater appreciation for health and wellbeing.

Clever tech can be used to monitor, amongst many other elements, air quality, light levels and areas of dense usage in offices and shop floors, providing key data to inform future design changes.

Excellent air quality, in particular, has been in high demand over the past year, along with a hyper-awareness of cleanliness that has accelerated the implementation of touch-free technology across all workplaces.


Click here for more information surrounding the post-pandemic future for commercial tenants.

Join Us For Free

We provide our members with tailored advice, support, access to detailed industry reports, a member-recommended Trusted Supplier Directory and much more.

Other Articles

Get in Touch

If you would like to discuss the content of this article, please do get in touch and we'll get back to you shortly.