While some have put commercial renovation projects on hold in the COVID era, others are taking advantage of empty offices and seizing the opportunity to tackle needed upgrades with minimal interruption. 

As 2020 winds down, is your Minnesota office space ready for a post-pandemic world? With some careful planning, remodeling your commercial offices right now might be easier than you think!

The past 6 months have seen unprecedented shifts in work norms, with office buildings that once held thousands of employees now sitting nearly empty. It has many people wondering: what will commercial office spaces look like in a post-pandemic world? Is this the pivotal moment where we shift to remote work forever? Experts don’t think so.

Commercial office spaces are here to stay

Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen predicts the vast majority of office workers will return to their cubicles in a post-pandemic world. She concedes that many might enjoy a more flexible work schedule in the future. But Olen cites Yahoo, Bank of America, and a number of other companies who previously offered full telecommuting as an employee perk. Later, these corporations rescinded the policy due to negative consequences in the workplace.

And the stats would suggest she’s onto something. A recent Deloitte survey found that 89% of respondents think the traditional workplace environment is essential for career development. Even Millennial and Gen-Z employees understand the importance of physical office space and want the option to work in-person — at least part-time.

The number one reason telecommuting doesn’t cut it

While the pandemic has shown some work can be completed from home, there are clear downsides to completely abandoning the traditional office.

Collaboration is especially difficult to achieve at a distance. Zoom and other video conferencing platforms made many day-to-day tasks possible for telecommuters, but nearly everyone agrees it’s less than ideal.

Zoom calls actually require more energy and focus than in-person discussions. Delays in video and sound don’t give us the same necessary cues as face-to-face interactions, leaving employees drained and frustrated by the end of the day.

In fact, in a remote work survey by PWC showed that over half of the respondents listed collaboration with colleagues as the number one reason they prefer a physical office space. And 39% named difficulty collaborating with peers as the number one reason for lack of productivity when working from home.

So while working in pajamas is a notable perk, it doesn’t seem to compensate for the lack of community and team-building the in-person office fosters.

Workplace changes in a post-pandemic world

So what does that mean for commercial office spaces after COVID? Will everything return to the way it was? Not quite. 

It’s safe to assume post-COVID commercial office spaces will look a little different. Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that commercial office spaces will shift to foster collaboration and team interaction over individual productivity. This might mean fewer cubicles, but more meeting spaces. So does this mean commercial offices will get smaller after the pandemic? It depends.

In the PWC survey, a third of executives expect a decrease in office square footage, and 19% don’t foresee changes. But half anticipate needing more commercial office space than before the pandemic, citing company growth, a continuation of social distancing measures, and health and safety requirements.

Health and wellness and the modern commercial office

Photo from Deposit Photos

Executives aren’t the only ones with workplace health on their minds. Employees are craving changes, too. According to the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report, a whopping 87% of survey respondents want their company to offer more workplace health benefits. And in the tech industry, 91% of workers said they would stay at a company longer if it provided wellness benefits.

Some popular benefits include:

  • Wellness rooms — spaces specifically designed to provide a quiet spot to meditate, stretch, or recharge
  • On-site fitness and access to showers (or paid memberships at off-site gyms)
  • Sit-stand desks
  • Ergonomic seating
  • Healthy lunch options at an on-site cafeteria

The indoor environment is especially important in Minnesota commercial offices, where employees commute in the dark for part of the year. Long winters and short days limit access to courtyards and fresh air, and indoor office environments are notorious for unhealthy air.

Improving air quality with updated ventilation systems and increasing access to natural light can go a long way to improve the health and wellness of commercial spaces. This commercial building in Chicago is overhauling its ventilation system with technology that removes up to 90-99% of bacteria, viruses, and mold from the air and indoor surfaces.

Adding greenery to a commercial office space can also make a welcome difference to overall office health. Biophilic design elements, such as large planters or living plant walls are known to boost creativity and overall mood. Studies show office environments with plants also increase employee productivity by 15%. Thoughtful workplace upgrades provide a win for companies and employees, alike.

Is your commercial office space ready for the new normal?

So if the commercial office environment is shifting, how can companies prepare for a return to work? For starters, take inventory of the current space. Your office could benefit from a remodel if:

  • Colors are dated or walls are scuffed
  • Carpet and countertops are worn
  • Staff is functioning inefficiently
  • Restrooms are dated or in poor condition
  • Space doesn’t allow for social distancing or increased safety measures

It’s also important to consider whether your office is set up to offer the right balance of collaboration and individual work. And that it’s set up to do so safely. 

70% of modern office spaces are open floorplan, which might not be effective or welcome in a post-pandemic world. Individual work pods, added plexiglass screens, or expanded walkways between cubicles help alleviate anxieties and promote health in the workplace.

The perks of renovating your commercial office space now

Titus Contracting Remodel Project

While the pandemic has brought significant hardship to commercial property owners, one solid benefit is the relative ease of commercial renovations. Previously, commercial office remodels were an inconvenience to workers and employers alike.

Employers were forced to find creative ways to maneuver staff throughout a space to avoid construction zones while maintaining productivity. Employees were negatively impacted by disruptions to routines, added dust and allergens, and excess noise.

By renovating your commercial space during the pandemic — while the majority of workers are still off-site — you eliminate these two hurdles entirely. We recently completed an entire office update in Forest Lake, MN while employees were off-site. 

Commercial remodels during COVID might feel risky from an economic standpoint, while so much still feels uncertain, but there are commercial upgrades that add value no matter the timing.

  • Make your commercial space more eco-friendly. Solar panels, increased insulation, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and energy-efficient lighting systems all increase value and decrease expenses in the long run.
  • Give the space a makeover. No matter the use, a fresh, clean building is always desirable. Take stock of carpets, fixtures, walls, and windows and replace anything dated, dreary, or damaged.
  • Enhance curb appeal. Give employees a place they’re proud to return to. Improve outdated signage, update doors, boost landscaping, and consider a deep cleaning or a fresh coat of paint to boost your building’s exterior.
  • Improve structural integrity. If your building is older, now is an ideal time for an inspection. Double-check the foundation, frame, and roof and address any issues to prevent expensive repairs down the road.

All of these renovations are great ways to boost property values and employee morale, and now is a great time to tackle them before temps drop and employees begin their return to the workplace. 

Titus Contracting is a full-service commercial and residential Twin Cities remodeling company. We offer additions, tenant construction, retail build-outs, construction management, custom design-and-build remodeling services, and more to commercial property owners and homeowners in the Twin Cities metro. Contact our team at 952-746-7817