Covid will have a major impact on shaping the offices of the future

‘The ultimate goal is to find out what normal will look like for organisations in the future’

18th November, 2020
Covid will have a major impact on shaping the offices of the future

The future of the office space

Having established itself as a major force in office design and fitout, IIS Space is expanding its efforts by being one of the founding members of a major Europe-wide alliance writes Quinton O’Reilly

With businesses keeping one eye on returning to the workplace, plans are afoot to deal with the new reality office spaces must accommodate.

The requirement for people to work from home this year due to Covid will have a major impact on shaping the offices of the future, likely a combination of traditional offices as well as increased use of remote working hubs.

Staying a step ahead of these wants and needs is something that IIS Space has specialised in for many years.

Founded by Nick Fitzgerald and Michael Jones, the Kildare company has been in business for almost two decades and has significant knowledge and expertise delivering workplace as well as tailored and turnkey fit out projects for major brands.

It has shaped offices for major companies like HPE, Eir and Kerry Group and its efforts have been recognised in national awards like the Considerate Constructers Awards and the Irish Fit Out Awards.

Now it adds another major string to its bow by becoming a founding member of Studio Alliance, a formal group of workplace experts in different countries across Europe.

Launching on Monday 16th November, Studio Alliance offers workplace consultancy, architectural and interior design, fit out and furnishing services across Europe through the alliance members.

It brings together eleven business members such as Alternativ in Belgium, Ditt in the Netherlands, Morphoza in Romania and CDB in France to name a few - all of whom have a combined annual turnover of more than €500 million.

Directors of IIS Space, Nick Fitzgerald and Michael Jones, mentioned that this allows IIS Space the ability to service its international clients outside of Ireland with Studio Alliance colleagues.

The alliance and its resource sharing will take much of the heavy lifting and mental workload away from its clients if they’re expanding into new territories. With repeat business from multiple companies, it can offer that continuity with recognised delivery teams in different territories helping them.

“Take a client with their HQ in Dublin who are currently serviced by IIS Space and require an office in Paris; having the ability to create a team of French and Irish consultants with local contractors is a big plus of Studio Alliance,” said Fitzgerald.

“Also, it’s easy to find help if you’re from the UK and looking to service your client in Ireland but imagine trying to find help going from Ireland to somewhere like Romania or Poland. With its members, Studio Alliance will eliminate all those concerns for both client and the alliance member leading to a more streamlined programme and end result.”

There’s a major difference between knowing something and understanding it and this applies to the many different work cultures and specific building regulations throughout Europe. Anything that can lessen the burden of moving or expansion will be embraced by companies needing to make that decision.

It’s a good thing too as there are two major challenges facing businesses: Brexit and Covid-19. Despite the pandemic dominating this year, Brexit is still a major concern that hasn’t gone away and, in a sense, helped speed up the foundation of Studio Alliance.

It presents some challenges for designing offices, mainly how the uncertainty around Brexit makes it difficult to plan for. From that, IIS Space expects co-working spaces to pick up the slack over the next year or two as businesses wait for it to play out.

That said, IIS Space has designed and delivered a number of office spaces for different organisations and multinationals around Brexit; they have not yet been occupied as it’s pending the final exit as well as Covid-19.

The pandemic presents a bigger challenge in ensuring people feel safe when returning to the office, something that Fitzgerald, Jones, and their colleagues at IIS Space are well aware.

“The key focus of design is around understanding how the space was used pre-Covid in terms of meeting rooms, collaboration areas, breakout space and townhall spaces,” explained Fitzgerald. “To understand what elements of work can be done from home and what needs to be office-based.”

“For example, sales calls can be performed from home, while financial, HR and legal matters generally need an office base due to the information been worked on.”

Figuring out the new normal

The ultimate goal is to find out what normal will look like for organisations in the future, with elements like retention of collaboration spaces, meeting spaces, hot desking and bookable work places being key drivers.

The next year or two will likely see a clearer picture of how work habits will develop, but already there are hints of what could be expected.

A recent survey from Dutch workplace strategy and design company WorkWire found that nearly 70% say they will work full hybrid with 33% saying they wish to choose fixed office and work from home days and 35% wanting to decide each day whether they’d work in the office or at home.

Also, travel time and available private home space plays a major factor with those who have smaller abodes would rather use co-working locations or neighbourhood offices.

While it’s too early to say just how future work environments will look, IIS Space strongly believes that the office will continue to play a major role in businesses, especially if collaboration is a component. For others, the social element is an important factor and most homes aren’t suited for work.

“A lot of people up till now are happy working from home but there are people looking to get back to the office and are craving that space,” said Fitzgerald. “Also, how can the likes of Google or LinkedIn survive without collaboration? Google is all about collaboration [where] you have gaming rooms, chill rooms and social spaces where people get in and mix together.”

“That’s going to have to be retained in some fashion.”

For now, it is tough to get a proper handle on how the future will look but whatever happens, returning to the office environment is a given.

On top of its own experience, having worked through the recession that hit Ireland in 2008, IIS Space linking with Studio Alliance gives it eleven partners who can share best practices and collaborate so they are a step ahead of the curve.

Already the partnership has borne fruit with members having access to initiatives like ‘The Mixed Presence Office’ from Ditt which included research into hybrid working and other related elements as well as ‘The Future Workplace’ from Area Europe.

IIS Space have also partnered with Area Europe on a number of successful projects in Dublin over the past couple of years with Infosys being one of the major clients - with two large scale projects designed by Area Europe and delivered by IIS Space.

In short, the Alliance will amplify what IIS Space offers to its clients in Ireland and elsewhere. Through collaboration and taking into account factors like industry, budget, sustainability, and location of the space, it can guide its clients in fit out, expansion and more if required.

“By collaborating with our clients, we try to ensure both people and architecture are on the same page,” said Fitzgerald. “A client with a modern office building needs to be guided in a design that befits and enhances the existing architecture so we try to challenge clients by bringing innovative new ideas to push their imagination.”

“Everybody has imagination when it comes to design, and it’s our role to ensure we embrace those imaginations and deliver a future proofed, superior product that both wow’s the client and compliments the architecture of the surroundings.”

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