During the current COVID-19 lockdown, many workplaces have become completely abandoned as employees have been working from home to stay safe.

The virus has had a major impact on the daily running of businesses, forcing us all to adapt and find new ways of working. While there have been many many negatives for businesses and their employees alike, there have also been some unexpected positives.

An empty office presents an unprecedented opportunity to make a few improvements to increase productivity and improve morale without disrupting staff.

Here are some ways that you can turn your empty office into an investment in the future of your business.

Assess your existing environment

First of all, it’s important to see what you’re working with. There are certain things that you may be unable to change, such as the position of walls, doors and windows, so you’ll need to plan around them.

Workplace management systems (IWMS) and computer-aided facility management (CAFM) tools are designed to show you exactly how you can utilise the environment. This will allow you to understand how much space you actually have, and how many workspaces you can support.

Doing this may highlight that your office is overcrowded in its current setup. You can then determine whether you can implement a new layout within the existing space or if the company would benefit from expanding into a bigger location.

Stay socially distanced

One concern is the possibility that the office will become a soulless grid of desks arranged to allow the maximum number of people to return to work.

While your work-from-home infrastructure is already in place, it makes sense to keep using it to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your staff.

Try not to get too bogged down in numbers, and don’t hurry to get everyone back at once. Make the most of those distance-working skills you’ve all been honing, and let those who are able to work from home continue as they are.

Consider workflow and productivity

Businesses change over time, and the way your office was originally laid out may no longer make sense. As rearranging desks and uprooting departments is hugely disruptive, we often simply put up with these less-than-perfect arrangements.

If certain teams and departments regularly collaborate with each other, it makes sense to situate them within the same area. Processes that involve working with confidential information or taking phone calls are better situated somewhere quieter and more private, such as in a separate office rather than an open-plan space.

You might want to introduce new, flexible working options to allow staff to work how best suits them. This could be quiet, private offices where people can get away from the hustle and bustle of the office when they need to concentrate, or bookable laptops and hotdesk areas for relaxed, informal working

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Before going overboard with your new plans, it’s worth thinking about what does and doesn’t work in the office’s current format.

A great way to do this is to email staff and ask for their input. As well as learning exactly what they do and don’t like about the office, you might also find that people have some great ideas that you hadn’t considered before.

This will provide valuable insight from the people who actually work in the office every day and will prevent extensive changes that end up making things worse. It’s also nice to include your staff in the process, allowing them to feel valued and respected—and to prevent a huge shock when they eventually return to work!