For the past year, we’ve been proactively working with C-suite executives to answer the question: what does our office need to look like long-term?
Collectively, our goals are to bring workers back to the office, restore the camaraderie and team spirit that’s waned through working from home, and combine the best of what we know from pre-pandemic office design with the best of the future office landscape.
An important element of these discussions is that it’s now an employees’ market. Avoiding planning/decision-making won’t win you the talent war. Making the wrong decisions won’t either.
We’re learning through research into key post-pandemic office design trends and predictions of five things that workers want in a post-pandemic office.
Prioritize Mental Health and Wellness
Wellness will absolutely be key in the post-pandemic office. Social isolation has made many employees who’ve been working from home for the past two years realize how much they need socialization for good mental health.
The best offices will become key players in mental health, providing a congenial atmosphere and encouraging social interaction.
But this will need to be balanced with space for employees to quietly catch their breath. Those same work-from-home employees have had time for reflection and solitude. Most have been able to take a few minutes to meditate at any time of the day or pull back from their desk for a break. For this reason, meditation rooms or serenity rooms may be a welcome addition.
Create Healthy Spaces
While healthy spaces encourage mental health and wellness, they also contribute to better physical health for employees. Employers need to look at their physical buildings and make sure they’re ready for incoming employees.
Important actions include following WELL building standards, providing plenty of natural light, and monitoring air quality. Employees and visitors will be understandably more concerned about the basic aspects of health and hygiene. Install touchless washroom systems and entryways and have things like hand sanitizers available that increase people’s comfort with public environments. Alleviate concerns by having systems and standards in place.
Learn from Co-Working Spaces
To make working at the office more attractive than working from home, the office needs to offer something different and better. Yes, this includes social interaction, but many will be benefitting from this outside of office hours as restrictions lift.
Even if an office has its own unique benefits, these will not outweigh the negatives if the physical environment is uncomfortable, or the design doesn’t fit its use. For example, a sea of cubicles won’t work in spaces where meeting and collaborating are needed.
Co-working spaces tend to be a good example of how to lay out an office space for a variety of needs. They lean towards comfortable spaces with a good mix of different types of workstations, soundproof spaces, meeting rooms, and more, depending on identified needs. They also often use a welcoming resi-mercial design, which will help with welcoming back employees who have gotten used to working from home.
Create an Adaptable Space
We’re seeing some new spaces designed around collaborative work. The caution here is to also be prepared to adapt to changing needs as employees may gravitate more towards working individually again as the pandemic fades.
If you want to move ahead with furniture and design choices while remaining flexible, try using mobile and adaptable furniture such as mobile dividers and modular seating that can be separated or linked together.
If you’re creating meeting rooms, put power and data modules in the meeting tables so they can be used as plug-and-play stations for individual work if needed. A meeting room that’s not getting used can be turned into a team office with a little creativity or left as a meeting room when it’s serving this purpose.
A Good Basic Layout Beats Over-the-Top Perks
While comfortable amenities are nice, they aren’t the only thing that makes the office attractive. The function and practicality of the space are just as important. It won’t work to leave the old-school office layout in place and add on a games room and a fancy coffee machine.
Some might appreciate the perks, but it won’t be enough if it doesn’t reflect the needs of your employees. Look at ways to increase the function and effectiveness of the office furniture and design while also creating a welcoming (and desirable) work space.
Your employees have been working in spaces primarily of their own design for the last two years. Don’t shy away from making the return to office as positive as possible or you’ll risk losing top talent to greener pastures.
Communicating with your employees is the surest way of learning how they view the office. And make sure to share with them the ways you’re working to make the return to the office a good one. They’ll want to know what these are, and what they can look forward to.