Rethinking the Workplace
Rethinking the Workplace

Rethinking the Workplace

Our global society has reached a critical moment — one in which we reconsider our priorities and responsibilities. For many, this includes an upheaval of our daily routines. The way we work, where we work, and with whom has suddenly shifted.

It’s tough to predict what the future of the office will look like, and there will be mistakes made along the way. But we should be asking the important questions right now. We should assume nothing and look at this as an opportunity to reimagine the workplace. At the same time, we need to adapt quickly to near-term needs (health + safety) in the context of future desires (flexibility + collaboration).

Over the last few weeks, we’ve fielded many questions about rethinking the workplace—these being some of the most common:

  1. What changes must be made in the near-term for our team to feel safe returning to our office?
  2. Will we work remotely more often post-pandemic, and if so, how much space do we need?
  3. Which floorplans will be most adaptable and appropriate for future pandemics?
  4. What will our people want to do in and out of the office?
  5. What tasks require physical proximity of our colleagues and our clients?

What to Do Right Now

As employers, we must help people feel comfortable returning to the office. And we will have to change behaviors, including ingrained etiquette like shaking hands, which is really hard.

It will be essential to audit your current space to identify any floorplan challenges. Be sure to involve operations, IT, and human resources in the audit to avoid gaps. A space planning expert can look at this with you and identify areas for concern that need to be addressed.

They’ll ask questions like: Where are the office convergence points? What communal stations and conference rooms need to be eliminated or reimagined? And, what new touchless technologies, furniture, and cleaning supplies are necessary for a safe return?

There are many layers to post-pandemic preparedness, but there are also several logical solutions that you can implement in the short term:

  • Create and distribute official guidelines for reopening.
  • Limit attendance to 50% at any one time. Ask team members to book their in-office workdays in advance to prevent crowding.
  • Adjust floorplans and seating arrangements to ensure physical distancing.
  • Communicate new policies with signage in your space.
  • Upgrade air filters and increase ventilation. Schedule a deep-clean prior to returning.

Add outdoor spaces and incorporate biophilic design.

What to Do In a Few Months

Once you’ve checked all the essential health and safety boxes, what comes next? Eventually, we will be able to apply what we’ve learned from this big workplace experiment. We can learn from what worked and what didn’t. And we can be prepared to adapt quickly when the next pandemic hits. For these reasons, we’d expect to see more of the following incorporated into the workplace of the future:

  • Touchless technology (doors, water, trash, coffee, faucets)
  • Assigned workstations and personal storage
  • Antimicrobial surfaces in common areas, even conference rooms
  • Wellness centers and health clinics
  • Fewer porous materials which can harbor germs