Whether companies are working to figure out in-person, remote, or hybrid workplace designs as lockdowns ease and workplaces open up again, we’re seeing three themes emerging:
- The need for up-to-date technology
- Employees are looking for collaboration and social interaction
- The entire concept of the workplace needs to expand
There’s No Room for Outdated Technology
Remote teams can’t connect using email alone. Companies are looking for at least a messaging app to compliment email—something that works great with quick and less formal communication.
In addition, remote employees and their in-office counterparts need high-quality audio and visual technology. Not only do gaps and freezes disrupt conversations, they also interrupt flow and ideas, and can make remote workers feel disconnected and undervalued.
Directly connected to communication is the need for high-speed internet. Many companies have upgraded their office internet, as well as creating a plan for keeping remote employees connected in the event of any future work-from-home or shelter-in-place situations.
And, as we learn more about health, wellness, and airborne viruses, workplaces are updating HVAC and airflow systems. This serves a two-fold benefit of keeping workplaces safer and creating more confidence in returning to work post-pandemic.
Collaboration and Social Interaction are Benefits to Employees Returning to Offices
One thing almost everyone missed during remote work was the connections that can only happen face-to-face. Whether it’s thriving in a brainstorming session, or just having a chat with different people in the office, real interactions are a key reason some employees choose to return to the office.
Workplaces can rethink their design to enhance this with a focus on meeting areas and breakout spaces. Room booking technology helps teams coordinate meetings and schedule in-office days. Bringing in modular seating and mobile dividers allows employees to customize breakout areas. Larger, more formal meeting rooms can still serve a purpose for group meetings and presentations that don’t work as well in breakout areas.
However, collaborative spaces must be balanced with spaces where employees can work in relative private and quiet. This has been highlighted in feedback from many people during lockdowns; having complete quiet and no interruptions is ideal for times of focused work.
We think it’s safe to say that generic open-concept offices that echo and offer no privacy are (thankfully) a thing of the past. Good workplace design meets the needs for collaboration and focused individual work time.
Our Idea of a Workplace Needs to Expand
The concept of a workplace is no longer restricted to the traditional office. It can include co-working spaces, home offices, outdoor setups, and the traditional office. Co-working spaces can be the key to creating satellite offices for employees who aren’t close to head office. They also create equality for remote workers who have struggled with insufficient home office set-ups during the pandemic. And they can be an incentive for living in areas that provide good work-life balance without needing long commutes to central offices.
Speaking of commutes, long commutes have been a chief concern of employees for many years—and can even inspire job changes. Both co-working spaces and home offices offer attractive alternatives to the big commute. If you are aware of employee density in a community, it may be worthwhile to set up a satellite office nearby.
This change in thinking (and planning) to allow for work time that’s not in a central office is strongly supported in polls and research. Employees are happier and perform better when they’re able to spend a portion of their average workweek outside the office working.
Creating a Lasting Workplace Design
For some people, everything has changed since March 2020. They’ve lost/gained jobs, experienced health scares or severe illness, and re-evaluated what really matters.
Workplaces can redefine and redesign spaces to reflect these changes in the most positive ways imaginable. We all have a greater appreciation for things like job security, job flexibility, and innovation. Workplace design can reflect this in ways that will improve workplaces, increase productivity, and—most importantly—improve employee health and wellness.