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The future of work post-pandemic

COVID-19 Responses Collection

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Nosizo Sebake

24 August 2020

Mark Napier


Nosizo Sebake

Information page

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

South Africa

This page forms part of the COVID-19 Responses Collection.


Here we present publications and guidelines related to the future of work spaces.


Publications, articles and blog posts

  • Even the pandemic can’t kill the open-plan office - In light of open-plan offices now considered a public health risk, Holder (2020) employers are rethinking office design.
  • How office layouts could change for good because of the pandemic - In this interview by King (2020), Cogan addresses the impact Covid-19 has had on his global organisation and the interior design sector. He suggests that "coworking spaces fulfil the same needs for connectivity as more traditional workplaces. In all likelihood, some areas of coworking spaces are already well designed for the new reality, and some will need to be updated. The solo gig worker who maintains a small office space is already separated from others. But densely packed open-plan areas will have to be revamped and reimagined just like traditional office spaces."
  • How offices will change after coronavirus - Mudditt (2020) considers how, in the absence of a vaccine, many aspects of modern workplaces will have to change if employees are to safely return to their desks. "Experts suggest this could involve a combination of short-term fixes aimed at boosting worker confidence, reducing the number of staff in the office at any one time and longer-term design upgrades and modifications that put hygiene at the heart of workplace planning".
  • Nine (9) ways to enhance the workspace experience post-Covid - In this blog post,  Meunier (2020), reflects on an online discussion where a panel of experts consider the long-term changes that workspace owners were in the process of making as employees return to the work environment. From the panel discussion, she identifies 9 ways that the workspace experience may be enhanced post-Covid.
    • "Knowing that their job can be done in a safe and controlled environment at home, many people don’t want to step back into cars, trains and buses to commute to the workplace. Therefore, the office has got to be worth the journey and the services you provide must be absolutely seamless"
  • The post-Covid-19 office of the future - Meiring (2020) considers the office space of the future in this article. She suggests that "the emphasis of office space in the future will shift away from ‘a place to sit and work’ to ‘a place to communicate, collaborate and build company culture’". She sees the "the office space of the future housing a lot less traditional workspaces and a lot more couches and social seating, even if these seats each have their own fold-open writing desks".
  • Redesigning workspaces for a post-Covid-19 world - In this article, Aldridge (2020) discusses some of the measures experts suggest be put in place to allow the industry to safely restart over the coming months.
    • "Improvements to office facilities and having fewer people in the office comes at a cost to landlords, office providers and end-users. Not easy to stomach given the current economic climate."
  • Rethinking office design trends in a post-Covid world - Brownell (2020) assesses the potential shifts that make impact the design of the workplace in a post-pandemic society. "Architects and designers will be called upon to help resolve this inherent contradiction" of balancing the human needs of community and wellness.
  • Return to work webinar series - The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) hosted a series of webinars on Covid-19 and the workplace.  The topics covered included risk assessment, office configuration and cleaning, the microbiome of the office environment and precautions for traveling between the workplace and home. The practicalities and challenges of the new paradigm in facilities management will be supported by two case studies. The webinars are listed below:
  • This office design with sealed individual pods is what returning to work could look like - Meisenzahl (2020) reports on a Radwan's system of office pod for the post-Covid-19 workplace, called "Q.workntine." The hexagonal pods are arranged in a hive shape that can accommodate different office layouts, with each ventilated workspace looking like a typical cubicle.

    Decision support tools

    • Design the Future - In this guideline [download 8MB], Boogertman + Partners (2020) consider approaches that may be adopted in the short-, medium- to long-term by South African businesses looking to re-enter the work place. They use global best practices and tried and tested agile working solutions to provide guidance on these approaches.
    • Covid-19 planning toolkit - Gensler (2020) has developed a set of tools and services to help built environment designer "quickly understand workplace supply and demand in a de-densified environment. [Eight] essential back-to-the-office planning tools and considerations address strategies and solutions that not only get us back to the office, but prepare us for the long-term future of work".
    • Perkins and Will creates guideline for a safe return to the office during Covid-19 - "Perkins and Will have generated a set of strategies, grounded in public health guidance, to help offices resume their work during COVID-19. Focusing on the transition phase, the guideline helps employers draw a road map for safe return. The scheme, based on wellbeing and health norms encompasses all scenarios, from a direct response to a transition phase, all the way towards a recovery phase once workplace restrictions are lifted".

    Photo Credit: Shayne Robinson


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