Planon greenhouse with workspaces, coffee corner and auditorium.

Three pillars of the post-pandemic office: inspiration, motivation and co-creation

The 'post pandemic' world is coming closer with every vaccination. However, once the pandemic has passed, organisations face a challenge. As an employer, how do you manage workspace occupancy when your people wish to work from home more often? What do you do with the resulting free space in your office building when there are far fewer employees present at any given time?

In 2018, anyone predicting that within three years around 25 percent of employees would want to work from home, would have been called ‘crazy’. But, according to TNO research [Dutch], that is exactly what has happened, and organisations are facing a dilemma. Do you move to a smaller office with lower overheads? Or do you reorganise your available space and convert the challenge of 'empty' square metres into opportunities?

Work hard, play hard

In 2020, organisations were forced to ensure that their employees had access to all the IT solutions that facilitated working from home. If checking emails, meeting and 'producing' are just as easy to do at home as at the office – with the added bonus of less commuting and increased freedom – why would your employee come back to the office? Organisations wanting to have their people present on site must ensure that the office offers added value compared to the home office.

In that situation, the extra space that is now available becomes vitally important. The office must grow into a place for inspiration, motivation and co-creation, a place which offers employees things that are not available at home. The post-pandemic office will be a kind of club house, that makes visiting the office worthwhile. At Planon, we asked employees to compile 'mood boards' to design their new workplace. This resulted in our open, green and sustainable workspace – a steel and glass greenhouse – in which working together feels organic. And we built a beach bar, because we believe that the best ideas often emerge over Friday afternoon drinks.

Sustainable innovation does not need to be expensive

Cost is one of the factors that can deter organisations from sustainably redesigning their free spaces. Companies tend to think that a refurbishment involves new designer furniture and artwork. That may be appropriate for some businesses but is certainly not the norm. When Planon redesigned its office in 2020 and built a greenhouse as the central meeting point, this was less costly than other forms of new build, and the furniture we chose – garden lounge sets – was nowhere near as expensive as the 'designer' models which interior designers often suggest. With the added advantage that the seating in our greenhouse is much more comfortable and very inviting.

Google and Facebook preceded you

It is naturally quite a bold move for organisations to turn their 'cubicles' into inspiration areas or to replace two meeting rooms with a gym. However, they should be encouraged by the numerous businesses who long ago converted their offices into a venue where their people 'want' to be, rather than 'must' be.

In December 2020, Google announced that from September 2021, employees were only expected at the office three times a week, and that those offices would look quite different after September. That message comes from a company which for years has been building more 'chill places' than closed workspaces, and which has installed slides near the stairs in most of its offices. In 2018, Facebook built a new head office which feels like a holiday park, where the boundary between the garden and the office building cannot be seen or felt. Google, Facebook and other giants realise that a pleasant workplace with space for the individual creates a better work-life balance. An enjoyable working environment also ensures that you retain employees, leading to better results. That is a thought process that many other organisations could learn from.

Portrait of Pierre Guelen, Planon CEO.

Pierre Guelen

Founder of Planon

Pierre Guelen, founder and former CEO of Planon, led global operations and shaped the company's strategic vision from its inception. His active role in elevating the facility management industry and highlighting the importance of real estate in business success has earned Planon numerous awards, including recognition as one of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies. After 42 years at the helm of Planon, Pierre stepped down as CEO on 1 June 2024, but he remains actively involved in the company as a strategic advisor.

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