It’s what many of us have been waiting for — the year 2021. We spent the majority of 2020 wondering what was going to happen next. When would life be normal again? What does normal actually look like after a pandemic? Will I ever work in the office again? These questions, along with many others like it, were given a blanket statement of, “We’ll take a look in 2021.”

So what does it actually look like now that we’ve started the new year? Things definitely didn’t change overnight, but there are promising advancements that can give us pieces of life as we used to know it before the pandemic. How does that look in the office specifically? Let’s take a look at how the office looks in 2021. 

1. Smaller real estate footprint

Offices that once housed hundreds, or even thousands of employees, were empty for the first time in 2020. Businesses moved to remote work and continued their day-to-day business operations from the comfort of home offices, couches, and kitchen tables. Many companies reported that their business thrived with the remote work set-up which quickly pivoted them to re-evaluate the size of their office space. Reuters published an article that quoted the demand for office space will be reduced by up to 15% due to revised working models created during the pandemic. Many companies are downsizing and creating smaller, more efficient office space for employees. This leads us to the next change — the hybrid work model.

2. The hybrid workplace is here for the long haul

There are been a large number of corporations that have publicly announced their plans to never return to the office 5 days a week. That ideology has spread across the corporate world like wildfire. Employees are more satisfied with the flexibility of working from anywhere has given them. Together, employers and employees are creating innovative ways to work collaboratively while working in different locations. This debunked the theory that working in the office was the only way to go. The hybrid workplace is definitely here to stay and has extensive benefits that business leaders and employees alike enjoy. 

3. Desk and space reservation required

With a reduced real estate footprint and hybrid work model, assigned seating for every single employee will be a thing of the past. Instead, companies are embracing space reservation to give employees a chance to plan ahead for their collaborative office days and when they’ll work from home. While these tools help the employees, they also offer vital information to office administrators who are now helping oversee office capacity. Space reservation tools help provide the data to adjust the available desks and rooms for booking to meet these capacity requirements. It also provides information on high traffic days and high touch locations. 

4. Health and safety measures will be strictly enforced

If there’s anything we’ve been reminded of in the last 10 months, our health and safety is absolutely a top priority. As we start to see our office building interiors for the first time in nearly a year, health screening and safety measures will be implemented in order to keep everyone safe. The days of coming to work when you had a little head cold are over. Employees and guests will likely have to take temperature checks upon arrival and complete a series of health screening questions before they can enter the workspace. Desks will be further apart and face masks will likely be required at all times. While we may not get to see the smiles of our coworkers, I think most people will agree with the idea of being under the same roof after all this time apart is exciting to think about. 

The office in 2021 will continue to evolve and change on a continual basis, just like we adapted in 2020 while working at home. While returning to the office will be fluid and likely look different from company to company, without a doubt it’ll look a bit different than what we’ve been used to.