Here’s what the post-COVID-19 office will look like

by Neil Sharma on 31 May 2021

It’s a near certainty that employees will interact with their office environments differently in the post-COVID-19 world, and while it’s too early to know the extent of the transformation, there are some indicators.

“We’re almost going back to what we had in office spaces many decades ago with wider footprints per employee, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some partitioned spaces,” said Sunny Sharma Commercial Team and co-owner of Century 21 Leading Edge VIP Realty. “Most modern buildings are okay because they have good HVAC systems, but some older buildings may need to be retrofitted because they’re quite similar to older apartment buildings which recirculate air. For example, the filter going through one person’s apartment goes into the neighbouring unit, but more modern buildings have independent air intake exhausts for individual units.”

Sharma also predicts that a majority of businesses will have some of their employees work from home permanently—he estimates about 20% of the workforce—if they don’t need to be in the office.

A recent survey from KPMG showed that 77% of respondents want a hybrid work arrangement in which they split time between their home and office, and that could determine the future of office tower construction. In Kelowna, The Block, a 100,000 sq ft office building in the city’s downtown is incorporating some post-pandemic principles, from enhanced air filtration systems to Zoom rooms, into its design environment.

“New office towers will have the ability to design flexibility into space planning from the start, and there will be more and more breakout spaces, higher amenities that relate to outdoor space, which would be difficult to retrofit into existing office towers, and they will become attractive qualities for office spaces,” said Luke Turri, executive vice president of Mission Group, The Block’s developer. “The Block will have touchless access throughout the office space, from the lobby to the parkade to the facilities. We’re looking at smart glass, which is energy efficient, and to improve some of the HVAC capabilities in the tower.”

The hybrid work model will reduce employees’ footprints through shared workstations as employees alternate which days they come into the office.

The Block will be Kelowna’s first A-class office tower, and while it’s located in the centre of the city, it’s four blocks from Okanagan Lake.

Kelowna’s cost of living relative to nearby Vancouver is attractive to employers and its central location bolsters its appeal, says Turri.

“People are selective with where they want to live, preferring locations where everything is walking distance,” he said. “

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