Ditching the 9 to 5 has enlightening implications for the design of offices

What can we learn from 2020? Maybe one of the most important lessons is that we had got to accustomed to functioning, working and thinking like machines rather than humans? The deadly Covid-19 virus reminded all of us that the mortal human can never relax and believe all is ‘’OK’’.

While taking small cautious steps toward recovery there are two distinct areas of the physical environment that require differing attention, namely; domestic and commercial. We have seen total disregard for social distancing during protests, street parties, beach parties  with little enforceable objection from police or government yet when it comes to commercial elements there are ‘’strict’’ guidelines – wear a face mask on trains or get off! Do not touch merchandise in stores! Stand a metre at least apart, is the order.

Which brings me to the conundrum of commercial businesses opening offices – how many to a lift, in a canteen, in the break out spaces to name a few. Add this to the potential hazards of being on public transport at peak times, there is a distinct lack of desire to return to our former place of work amidst all the hazards we can encounter both when travelling and in our places of work. Research has shown that transport anxiety can in fact have a negative effect on work performance.


Carrying on

Our exceptional construction professions and industry has proved during the lockdown phase that we can carry on in a semblance of normality working split shifts and this has proved successful and allowed sites to continue to operate.

Tradesmen and women have adapted to working different hours in the same manner as supermarkets decided to open 24 hours a day many years ago and I firmly believe the commercial world will adapt to this. City traders are used to being at their desks at 06:00 they travel on public transport that is comfortable and with personal space.

So, to my point. The time is fast approaching where office workers are going to request the ability to come to work in quieter times and this will mean company’s offering shifts from very early morning to late at night and all times between so we shall see offices occupied at say a maximum of 40-50% between say 05:00 and 23:00. We know from studies that alertness comes and goes and can change by the minute. It’s been estimated that between 6:00 – 9:00 and 15:00 – 21:00 is when we are at peak alertness, times that are not always typical of office hours.

The greatest hurdle for organisations will be ensuring staff are alert and able to carry out their duties as the body’s circadian rhythm with affect their abilities. Without alertness there can be no attentiveness, and without attentiveness no performance.

Research suggests that while working in darker outdoor environments subjects showed to be less anxious and performed better with brighter light on during later work hours. Highlighting to me that, we must mimic differing times of the day for people working out of normal hours and to successfully carry this out, building occupiers will have to look at the benefits of LED tuneable white lighting. With many studies highlighting that lighting and flexible work days can in fact affect productivity and performance. It is a combination to be truly considered.