A slew of stay-at-home and work-from-home orders over the past two years saw millions of people and companies shift to remote working — the vast majority of them having to adapt to this new reality for the first time. Now, as many prepare to return to the office, it’s the workplace’s turn to adapt.
After months — for some, even years — of working from home, people’s expectations of the workplace have changed. What people want and need now are safe and compelling workplaces that are inspiring, flexible and help them get work done. They also want more control over where and how they work, and designers need to create spaces to cater to an even more diverse range of needs. Different design approaches will be required to create spaces that support the new ways in which people want to work and the things organizations need to compete effectively. Some of these new design approaches are explained below:
ME + WE
Equally supporting individual and team work
While some believe the primary reason people want to work at the office is for group activities, people say they also want the ability to focus and work in a professional environment. Relying on home offices to support individual work isn’t viable for an inclusive organization, because various factors — such as limited home space and distractions — make it challenging for people to always do individual work from home. To address this, designers need to balance the needs of teams and individuals by creating neighborhoods where both collaboration and focused work can ebb and flow.
FIXED TO FLUID
Design for greater flexibility and mobility
Design planning in the past often relied on a more formulaic approach, with a mindset toward permanent architecture and office settings. The new realities of how people and organizations need to become more agile require designers to plan spaces that will regularly morph and change as needed.
OPEN + ENCLOSED
More enclosed ‘me’ and open ‘we’ spaces
Learnings from the work-from-home experience and early returns to the office show that new patterns are emerging. People who often did individual work in more dense, open spaces, desire more enclosure or shielding to control privacy and safety. Teams who frequently worked in enclosed conference rooms, prefer to be in more open settings, both for a sense of safety and the flexibility to expand and contract and adjust their space easily based on their activities. Designers will need to think about ways to reinvent collaboration spaces that don’t always need four walls and a door, and individual spaces that feel more protected.
BRAIDING DIGITAL + PHYSICAL
Enhancing human experience through technology
People and organizations will embrace hybrid working from home and office and travel will be less frequent, so remote collaboration is here to stay. Designers need to create solutions for individual and group video interactions that are not constrained to laptops or phones. Sensing technologies will need to be embedded to support increasing data-driven or artificial intelligence-guided experiences.