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Returning to the workplace: creating a safer, more comfortable environment

Hybrid workspaces are here to stay

Returning to the workplace: creating a safer, more comfortable environment

A woman wearing red, standing outside a building, holding her phone and smiling.

Planning future workspaces

As many European countries continue to manage lockdown and potentially begin their journey towards normality1, it’s time for businesses to think about the future of their physical offices. Returning to the office will look different in every country and every organisation, with every individual person sure to have their own concerns and priorities.

Research suggests that hybrid workspaces are here to stay, with remote working likely to remain an essential part of many professionals’ lives. Opinion polls show that people see the enormous value of working with colleagues in a physical office while also benefitting from home working, with the flexibility of hybrid working appealing to different needs. One survey found that roughly three-quarters of employees want to work in the office in some capacity2– one-quarter full time, half split, one-quarter entirely from home – while another poll found that a significant 94% of employees want to return to their office at least one day a week3.

Meanwhile, among UK working parents, just 13% want to go back to ‘the old normal’4, while two-thirds of Generation Zs and Millennials seek permanent home working5. Some of these opinions may be couched in fear and worry. A poll found workers in the UK, Spain, France and Germany felt largely negative about returning to the office6; in another UK survey 44% of people specifically felt anxious about the potential health risks7. But for some tasks and working contexts, there’s no beating face-to-face collaboration, so if a company is to benefit from maintaining a physical office space it’s crucial that personnel have peace of mind. For IT and office managers, this means ensuring the office space is safe and meets the changing needs of 'the new normal'.

Repositioning the office

Some 88% of companies say they are reconsidering how much space they need and how making changes now can bring about benefits to them and their staff. Many are looking to decentralise their operations into smaller regional clusters of employees with satellite offices and co-working spaces closer to people’s homes. This could provide more flexibility and attract new talent.

Research has found that reducing anxiety or fear amongst employees is the second largest challenge faced by senior executive and HR specialists.

Adapting the office for hybrid working

It will be vital for businesses to ensure they make the most of their real estate investment, while supporting people collaborating across and moving between multiple locations – even across the globe.

Technology will play a key part in this transformation; employees will be able to connect to office devices, including printers, seamlessly from wherever they are. Whatever changes are made, businesses will need to balance adaptations with safety concerns.

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Preparing for a safe return to the office

As company offices shift in their look and function, employees may see their working days change too. Some businesses are considering staggered entry times and one-way systems, with entry enabled by touchless technology such as RFID-enabled identity cards, facial or voice recognition, or QR codes.

Once in the office, apps can allow staff to completely manage document processing, including printing and scanning, from their phones and mobile devices. Printers can even be serviced via an app to avoid physical contact. Alternatively, voice recognition, QR codes and NFC can be used to operate office devices. On necessary touchpoints, such as printer touchscreens and media drawers, antimicrobial films can help stop the spread of viruses. Once applied, these films can be left to work 24-7 for up to five years, longer than the lifetime of the average device. This allows staff to maintain standard cleaning processes and avoid having to clean critical parts, which could risk damaging the technology. Crucially, these films can provide confidence that the device is always available and can be used as normal, safely.

When working with physical documents in any workspace, useful office accessories reduce time, effort and contact with surfaces, supporting hybrid working and accelerating digital transformation.

This will be the key factor as we reopen company offices: giving staff the peace of mind that it is safe to return to their workplace. With many premises closed to employees for a year or more, the idea of returning may well cause feelings of anxiety, and the hygiene of the space will be a priority. It’s essential that people feel comfortable and relaxed, but also have the confidence to work productively and manage their time effectively. For facilities and IT staff, the list of considerations will be long. New technology, solutions and processes can alleviate some of that stress.

Canon can support your business as you reopen your shared workspaces. Visit the hub page to learn more about making your working life easier and safer.

Visit the hub page to learn more

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