It’s hard to believe that over a month ago we pivoted in the span of 24-hours to a 100% work remote format. In this relatively brief period of time, we have had to learn and adapt to new patterns of behavior, ways of conducting business, and approaches to connecting with clients, colleagues and the like. These initially disruptive changes have caused us to contemplate the lasting impacts of the pandemic on the built environment, specifically the corporate Workplace.
Without a doubt, the current pandemic will forever change the nature of work.
We can’t even begin to comprehend the more significant cultural changes that may remain: redefining the traditional parameters of a 40-hour work week and 8-hour day; ubiquitous fully-immersive technology solutions that we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on; business travel – do I really need to fly or drive to that meeting when I’ve become quite accustomed and efficient with virtual ones?
As discussions have started on the reopening of business in Ohio, here are five ideas we have been discussing internally and with our clients on how the workplace may change in the coming months:
With remote work fully vetted for many businesses, companies that have been reluctant to implement this idea may move forward. On the other hand, social distancing protocols could reverse the three-decade evolution from 8′ x 8′ workstations to five-foot benching layouts. If so, this could put pressure on what has been a continuous reduction in personal square footage and reverse the journey to overall smaller real estate footprints.
Could seated height solid partitions make a return, closing in the fully open collaborative workplace?
What about no conference rooms over ten seats?
There will be an even stronger emphasis on creating healthier indoor environments driven by both biophilic design and more sophisticated (and clean) mechanical systems.
An increase in the demand for safer surfaces throughout all areas of the Workplace: anti-microbial, easier to clean, automatic doors throughout (not just at main entries).
Most likely, these design program reversals will not occur as simply a regression to the past. More likely, we will embrace and extend some of the trends already in progress. Here are five extended ideas on where we can advance design to accelerate the next positive evolution of the workplace strategically:
What if the current conditions of working remote became the definite advantage of working as a high performing “distributed” team?
It is likely that the pandemic will stir a surge in innovation for distributed work technology. Will we be designing for open video links across multiple regions?
What will we do with the time gained in cutting commute time?
Will we imagine measuring our business value as a team instead of as a group of individuals?
Will innovation centers and team scrum districts supersede individual workstations and private offices?
Resilient businesses will learn from the challenges we faced during the pandemic. They will embrace the most positive aspects of the ways we adapted, ultimately defining their new normal.
We know it is vital to innovate and move forward. We believe that design will lead the way and champion the high-value return to the office. We will get through this.
Jeffrey Sackenheim, AIA, LEED AP, is a licensed architect and an Owner at SHP. He leads SHP’s Workplace Studio and serves as its Creative Director. Jeffrey specializes in design-forward corporate, retail and commercial projects. Clients benefit from the boundary-blurring themes and trends that have emerged via an overlay of these building types, whether in design forces, construction techniques, or both. Jeffrey is an AIA Cincinnati Past President and past chair of the Cincinnati Design Awards.
Brady Mick, AIA, is SHP’s Director of Strategic Design. He is Top Faculty at CoreNet Global and co-creator/teacher of the Masters of Corporate Real estate workplace designation (MCRw). Brady researches psychology, philosophy and history in pursuit of building meaning into the resources invested into designing for the future of work. He provides design strategy and leadership to clients by focusing his 30 years of professional experience on thought leadership, research and social dynamics.
SHP (@SHP_design) is an Annual Sponsor of ULI Cincinnati.