‘Propeller offices’: A solution for remote and office work during a pandemic?

Jun 19, 2020 | Marketing transformation, Skills

‘Propeller offices’: A solution for remote and office work during a pandemic?
Workspace strategy firm Unispace has launched a new concept for workplace design that addresses the evolution of the workplace in a post-COVID-19 business landscape.

The ‘Propeller Office’ model takes a ‘home and hub’ approach to combine the collaborative physical office space with the ease and familiarity of homeworking for focused work, creating a balance between both locations.

It is designed both to assist businesses as they tackle the challenges of establishing a COVID-19-secure workplace, and to embrace the changes in working practices to propel businesses forward as they adopt the new normal.

1. Old Office vs. Propeller Office Floorplan – Conceptual design showing a traditional office floorplan, compared with the new Propeller Office concept, combining creative and collaborative spaces within post-COVID spatial and hygiene parameters.
2. Our Idea of the New Normal Workplace – Sketch showing the progression of the Propeller Office concept. The inspiration for the new workplace design concept came from combining the advantages of both home and onsite workplaces and visualising them as the overlapping blades of a propeller.

This approach is designed both to assist businesses as they tackle the challenges of establishing a COVID-19-secure workplace, and to embrace the changes in working practices to propel businesses forward as they adopt the new normal.

A recent survey of 237 of Unispace’s clients, including Rolls-Royce, Virgin Media, PwC, EY and Deloitte, found that businesses across the globe are looking for workplace solutions that improve employee retention, inspire collaboration and knowledge sharing, and normalise the true definition of flexible working. The study found that, across markets, over two thirds (68 percent) expect employees to work from home 2-3 days/week. It also found that 41 percent of businesses expect employees to use more spaces within the office as they transition to activity working. The Propeller Office concept responds to these trends; it encourages employees to seek out their place of work for its culture and collaborative experiences, while also enabling employees to do focused work at home or close-to home, in personalised spaces devoid of distractions.

The Propeller Office model focuses much less on the individual desk and finding focus space, as employees can now do this at home with the correct set up. Instead the office will revolve around those experiences that satisfy our social desires, and reinforce brand, culture, innovation and problem-solving. This will balance out the issues of re-planning desks in the short term and allow employees to return to the office for its best benefits – not merely to satisfy presenteeism.

As a result, The Propeller Office will also see a reduction in space needed as the single desks that dominate the office are predominantly at home.

Albert De Plazaola, Unispace Global Director of Strategy, said; “In the past year, work modes of focus, collaboration, learning, and socialisation have moved online and away from the physical workplace. With post-COVID-19 parameters in place, workspaces could remain unoccupied as much as 80 percent of the time.

“This does not mean the office is now irrelevant, but it does mean that the value of the office has changed. Moving forward, the office will exist to satisfy our social and collaboration needs, functioning as an idea and revenue generator, while our home office will provide us with the opportunity to focus and learn.

“Workforce needs have changed, and work patterns have shifted,” continued De Plazaola. “If we are to find success in this new reality, our approach to the physical office will need to evolve to adjust to the ‘next normal’ and absorb what we have learned during this crisis.”

Simon Pole, Global Design Director at Unispace, said; “Unispace’s Propeller framework is evolutionary, not revolutionary. COVID-19 has thrown a curve ball at the way people work and our job has been to find a solution – fast. Office design will inevitably change; from occupancy levels in meetings rooms, to a reduction in the number of single desks – but the office is far from obsolete yet.

“For some, this might mean a reduction in real estate, while others will redistribute and reinvest to create a destination workplace, with more areas for collaboration and enhanced technology. Propeller is the strategy led-design solution businesses need to enable employees to thrive. The hybrid model is designed to propel employers and employees’ forward to create places where people do their best work.”

Additional information, including a visual representation, of Unispace’s new Propeller Office model can be found here.

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