What Will Your Office Look Like In The New “Normal”?
Date: June 11, 2021
With an increasing number of people getting vaccinated and the CDC easing guidelines on masking and social distancing, many people are ready to return to normal. But, understandably, with the amount of change we have all seen in the recent past, our definition of “normal” is changing. Many regular office-dwellers became accustomed to working from home in 2020, and many of them want that to continue. This is causing a shift in how we work, and a more permanent change to hybrid work environments.
An Increase in Choice
We can’t be the only ones who got used to working in pajamas every now and then! Over half of American workers (about 54%!) would prefer to continue working from home even after all COVID restrictions are lifted. This is causing businesses to consider a permanent change to a more flexible work environment, as well as work schedules.
Many of us found that working from home has its benefits as well as its negative effects. On one hand, at home, you’re able to focus on specific tasks without someone popping their head in your office for a quick chat. On the other hand, collaborating exclusively over video calls can be challenging, as well as limiting to natural conversation patterns you can have in person.
While work was able to continue through these challenges, many people are looking forward to the ability to choose what works best for them. For some this may look like working in the office a few days a week and working from home or a third place the rest of the week. Others may prefer to be in the office or at home nearly 100% of the time. The best workplaces will be able to give their employees the freedom to choose what is best for them.
Finding Balance With Three Working Places
This increase in choice has us looking at the three main places people work. Each place has its own function, and lends itself to different types of tasks.
The Office- Teamwork and collaboration is best done in person, face to face. This makes the office the best place for meetings, creativity, and provides access to any necessary materials or tools like large whiteboards, projectors, and other equipment.
The Home Office- Getting into a deep focus is easiest when there are limited distractions. The home office is a great place to work on detailed tasks, take scheduled calls, and is helpful for families and people with commutes.
Third Places- A third place can be a cafe, coworking spaces, a client's office, or even an airport waiting room. These workspaces are best for quick and casual meetings, touching base with your team, networking, and socializing.
How To Find What Works For Your Company
Your business culture should drive your workplace design, and how flexible your employees' workplace may be. The commonly held values of your business and your team should instruct you on how to move forward.
A culture that is centered on creativity and collaboration will benefit from an office that is designed to teams be productive together. This looks like open meeting rooms with space to spread out, lounge areas that support smaller group conversations, and community spaces that help support teams.
Alternatively, a company culture that is based in competition, or is highly focused would do best with formal meeting spaces, and enclosed individual workspaces. These types of spaces allow your employees to focus on the task at hand without distraction.
How Will Offices Change?
In the coming months and years we expect hybrid work environments to become the norm. This will mean that some offices need to make changes in order to provide the best support for their employees.
Increased number of third places at the office
Making better use of areas like lobbies, cafeterias, and supplementing these places with more seating, and workstations. Offering comfortable lounge seating, like the Cabana Lounge or Buzzi Spark that includes plugs for computers or phones is a great option for small-group collaboration. It can also be helpful to include single-person workstations or phone booths in these environments to allow for focused work as well.
Expansion of meeting and conference rooms
Not only do we expect offices to focus more on their collaborative spaces, we expect these locations to support work with added comfort and utilities. Using tables like the Immerse with added power for charging computers is a great option. It also includes a shelf that allows you to get papers and phones out of the way to really spread out and focus on the task at hand.
Focus on furniture and arrangements that are well-suited to change
Finally we expect to see an increase in highly-flexible furnishings. If COVID taught us anything about work it’s that you can’t plan for everything. Flexible workspaces like the Haworth Pergola are built with flexibility in mind. Changing needs from collaborative spaces to dedicated focus can both be accommodated when the furnishings are built for flexibility.