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We are currently living through a period of major change.  From how we interact with our friends and family, to how we shop and how we work, things are different.

Nearly every aspect of work here in Buffalo and beyond has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The workforce has been upended.  For months, the only people working outside of the home are essential workers, out on the front lines following guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.  For those in businesses that aren’t deemed essential, we collectively make up the largest remote workforce in history.

Clear Workspace Parameters

In the pre-pandemic environment, our options for where we worked were relatively clear. Traditional office space was the most common, built for synergy and productivity.  A company’s headquarters offered structure, discipline and privacy. Working side by side with coworkers was always part of the picture, be it daily tasks, project meetings, or birthday cakes.  Traditional office space has taken on many shapes and sizes over the last several years with open office environments containing collaborative areas and resi-mercial furniture.  Whatever the floor plan, traditional office comes with a fixed lease term, rate, and little flexibility for scaling up or down over the years.

Coworking space, or shared office space, has been the golden child of late.  A typical coworking center features an open floor plan with members representing various companies sharing tables, desks and conference rooms.  The more modern centers offer private offices and suites with dedicated meeting rooms.  Both offer flexibility with spaces and membership terms.

Working Remotely

Because of COVID-19, companies and employees had to find ways to effectively work from home, whether in a makeshift home office or at a dining room table. Daily commutes, private offices and meetings with team members have been replaced with virtual meetings, cybersecurity concerns and uncertainty about when we can return to our offices.

You may have heard that working from home (WFH) boosts productivity. However, quarantine working and WFH before COVID-19 are much different.  Let’s clarify the environmental factors at play.

Quarantine Working vs. WFH  

In 2015, the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a study on 1,000 employees of a Chinese travel company, which revealed that working from home led to a 13 percent increase in performance – almost an extra day of output per week – plus a 50 percent drop in employee-quit rates.  However, according to Stanford University economist and co-author of the study Nicholas Bloom, working from home today tells a different story. He attributes that to four factors: children, space, privacy and choice.

Children. Space. Privacy. Choice.

Parents with younger children have become full-time teachers through “distance learning.”  One requirement for a successful WFH program for any business is the requirement that children are in school or daycare, Bloom says. The analysis also took into account that employees could only work from home if they had a home office.  The room could not be a bedroom, and nobody else was allowed in during the workday. While some people may have the means to create a dedicated home-office, it is a luxury that not everyone has. “Many people I have been interviewing are now working in their bedrooms or shared common rooms, with noise from their partners, family or roommates,” Bloom noted.

Another common practice for at-home workers was the availability to go to the office once or twice a week, allowing for collaboration and a change of scene.  In-person collaboration is necessary for creativity and innovation, Bloom said.  His research has shown that face-to-face meetings are essential for developing new ideas and keeping staff motivated and focused. The final factor that impacts work from home productivity is the element of personal choice.  Most, if not all of us, have no choice but to work from home during the pandemic.

Reimagining the Office

So, what might it look like once people have the option to return to their place of work? According to a recent Gallup poll, 62% of employed Americans say they have worked from home during the crisis, a number that has doubled since mid-March.  Of those who have worked from home, about 60% say they would prefer to continue the arrangement once public health restrictions are lifted.  In contrast, 41% would prefer to return to their workplace. What they return to, however, will look much different from what they left just a few months ago.

Office spaces were already experiencing changes before COVID-19 and they will continue to evolve. Workplace trends showed that companies are focusing more on the physical and mental wellness of employees, increased flexibility of how their spaces are used and seamless technology for on-site and remote access. These will all be necessary as we return to the worksite.

Companies will find countless ways to reimagine their offices in order to provide a safe environment for all.  Whether it be staggering employees, following sanitation procedures, or marking six-feet of distance throughout, it will be an adjustment for all.

What about the companies that no longer want employees working from home and who need more flexibility than what traditional office space provides?  Are there hybrid options for employees who don’t feel comfortable returning to the office or working from home?  How will employees rebuild their work relationships and communities that were lost while being isolated?

Healthy with HANSA

HANSA places the highest priority on the health and safety of its membership and staff. We are implementing measures to ensure that members and companies are comfortable and content in each of our spaces.  We are working closely the CDC, all levels of government, and trade organizations including the Global Workspace Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association International and the Institute of Real Estate Management.

HANSA will provide a flexible and on-demand workspace solution for the local Buffalo business community when it opens this summer and the economy begins to reopen. HANSA will be the solution for companies that want more accountability and community for their staff and for remote employees who need a professional worksite away from distractions. Regardless of the reason, HANSA offers a variety of spaces, flexible membership options and a quick start-up process.

Stronger Together

While the business community is forced to work in new ways and in new spaces, the value of a vibrant workspace community that meets the needs of all businesses has never been clearer.  As thousands of office workers have successfully acclimated to working from home and business owners look for alternative worksite arrangements, HANSA will be ready.

We are all in this together. We will get through this.

Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] – I will gladly assist you with creating a tailored flexible workspace plan!

About the Author:

Laura Jimenez is the Community Manager for HANSA, set to open in August 2020 at 505 Ellicott Street in the heart of downtown Buffalo.