Luis Enrique Guillén Tarragó
Gerente General
Expert Contributor

Workplace Challenges, Opportunities in a New Reality

By Luis Guillén | Thu, 11/26/2020 - 13:17

Today, one of the most significant transformations of the 21st century is being undertaken by all companies worldwide. The forms of interaction between all human beings have been called into question by new health rules, social distancing, crowd restrictions, as well as the use of personal protective equipment. The pandemic has forced some of us to stay focused more than others on health as a priority and to closely monitor our revenue sources.

The area of corporate interior construction, which creates a large number of jobs worldwide, has been one of the industries most affected by the pandemic. The inevitable question is: What will happen to offices? Will we return to traditional office spaces in corporate buildings, which house other organizations with large numbers of employees?

The answer is yes, but when? Not until there is a vaccine or we learn to live with the virus. The results of the upsurge in cases of COVID-19 are still uncertain, so it's wise to remain cautious about returning to offices, as well as relocating and expanding workplaces.

In just a few months, expert companies in the corporate interior market, including developers, brokers, project managers, designers, furniture, equipment and construction companies, have developed strategies to allow the continuity of staffing in offices.

Although there is no protocol that fully ensures that no contagion will occur, a significant percentage of the workforce has been able to resume activities by implementing communication and signaling strategies that help maintain a safe distance, body temperature recording, sanitation points and space allocation for package storage, among others. However, many of the large transnational corporations have chosen to put off their return until 2021.

At BXH, we have participated in the implementation of programs to return to work in finished offices, and immediately at construction sites, always with the health of our employees as our main objective while mindful of the importance of maintaining sources of employment.

Although most businesses have effectively maintained their activities with employees working from home, in the medium term, this model could become unsustainable, as the challenges of infrastructure, ergonomics and equipment extend to other issues such as the safety, confidentiality and mental health of remote workers. Not everyone is lucky enough to have rooms that are adequate for working in an ideal manner.

Everything points to a balance between time spent in the office, working from home and nomadic work, that is to say, working from any point, coworking or connectivity site that allows people to work with face-to-face equipment, video conferences without interruption and with adequate acoustics, as well as critical work that requires spaces without distractions.

On the other hand, the opportunities that are presented are vast and will be a watershed for the organizations and companies that decide to take them. Decentralizing operation centers can optimize costs in the investment of assigned or personalized spaces and the implementation of policies of schedules where there is rotation of personnel using the same workstation. It is even possible to locate these new headquarters in better locations to reduce transfer times or have more and better services. 

Today, these distinctions are important for retaining talent, which is worth the effort in times of uncertainty because growth and recovery will come in the near future. It is a good time for reforms and adaptations that follow policies and certifications for employee welfare.

We've all probably had more time to invest in reflection, introspection and planning. The suspension or deceleration of work has given us time to put the functionality of workspaces into perspective and question them, as well as the interaction of users within them.

But without a doubt, the greatest opportunity is the great capacity for collaboration and exchange of information that we can have today, the sharing of knowledge, opinions and ideas that enrich and form new ideas are just a click away. Paradoxically, 2020 is the year in which, being more physically separated, we are more connected.

In my opinion, there are still many unknowns for the corporate interior market for the rest of this year and the next. We do not know the scope that the decisions derived from the challenges of the pandemic will have even when the vaccine is available. Today, we have the opportunity to keep an open mind like never before, to rethink the way we build interiors and to further strengthen the great capacity for adaptability and ingenuity that we have in the industry.

Photo by:   Luis Guillén