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New reality determines new office functionality

Workplace advisory

Olga Mihailova, Colliers workplace advisory expert


Even before the pandemic, many companies were trying to find the answer to the questions of what role the office plays today, why it is needed, how big it is and how it should be set up. The layout of each office can mostly be divided into four different areas:

  • The first area can be called the customer area - the place where company guests and employees are greeted, it is also a kind of business card of the company, seen by everyone who comes to the office. However, some companies, such as business support function organisations (back offices), may not have such areas - they are simply not needed.
  • The other area is the social zone area - the heart of the office. This is a part of the office where people meet, talk and relax. It includes the kitchen, coffee corners, lounges, maybe a game room, if any, and the like. This area can be single, or it can be divided into smaller units and scattered throughout the office, for example, if the company’s office is located on two or more floors.
  • An integral part of every office is the common area - meeting rooms, telephone booths, everything that is used to perform duties in addition to the workplace - a desk. This infrastructure is used both individually and by teams, but most important is that it is not tied to any particular person or team and can be used by all employees of the company as needed.
  • And finally, the team area, the part of the office where people do individual work within teams, or alone, the area where desks are located. These workstations may or may not be tied to a specific person.

Changes can be divided into several groups depending on what is underlying them: changes in space, changes in functionality (proportion of office areas listed above) and changes that affect both space and functionality.

You can expand, or, alternatively, reduce the office space without changing its functionality. For example, a company’s office is located on several floors or there are several similar segments within one floor (layout is similar, each floor has workstations, meeting rooms, coffee corner), and then it is possible to separate one of these segments or abandon the floor, thus reducing area while preserving the same functionality.

Another solution is to change the functionality of the office. For example, a company has a long-term lease, and it is clear that the outline of the office space will not change, however

the current layout no longer meets the new requirements and is not conducive to productive work due to the lack of meeting rooms, informal meeting places and conference calls, etc. In this case, a slight change in functionality can lead to the desired result, for example, reducing a large customer area, which is currently less relevant, gaining additional space for a meeting room or informal employee meeting place, or reducing work areas (in case employees no longer work in the office all five days a week and the company can implement the principle of shared desks) can be set up in the current call booths instead of where some of the desks were located, ensuring employees need to make conference calls and concentrate on individual work.

However office changes mostly affect both space and functionality. Often, when considering one of the options, the latter also changes.

The company needs to define the desired new ratio between working from home and working in the office; agree on how many come to the office, how often, whether all workstations are retained or partially abandoned.

If it becomes clear that the use of the office must be different, questions must be answered—why we come to the office, what we want to do in the office and then think about how to implement changes, what parts we can leave without changes.

Going into the details in order to make the right decisions, a in-depth study is necessary to estimate what exactly people do in the company, as it differs depending on the industry and specifics of the company. Employees’ activities also vary within the company—different teams do different tasks. For example, the work environment we create for 20 project managers and 5 analysts will be different from what we create for 20 analysts and 5 project managers - there will be different proportions of functional areas. In addition, employees’ mobility needs to be analysed: how much time employees spend in and out of office due to their work responsibilities (in addition to the new balance between working from home and working in the office), the example mentioned here with analysts and project managers also illustrates the potential difference.

By researching and summarising this, one can gain a data-based understanding of potential changes in the work environment and office planning.


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Olga Mihailova

Associate Director | Office Agency & Workplace Advisory


I have joined Colliers International  team in September 2016. Currently I am working on  Landlord Representation within brokerage department.

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