Our thanks again to Allyson Strowbridge of ctrl+shift+space sharing Three Workplace Design Trends to track for 2021. We know that these trends will be valuable into 2022/2023 as we manage what employees will expect in order to return to the office.
After consulting with clients across the spectrum of business size (50-75 employees and 500+ corporations), Allyson was hearing 3 types of space definitions that resonated most highly across the board:
1- Restorative Spaces
It may be an obvious one, but in our digging through numerous articles, it was curious that these types of spaces – ones that allow people to be off-view for a bit of respite, meditation, or prayer, etc. – didn’t come up more frequently.
After nearly a year where many office workers struggled to find a job, keep a job, or achieve promotion at a job – while at the same time juggling family and other responsibilities remotely – mental health on the whole took a deep toll on the global community. People are fatigued with video calls, with expectations to be on camera, on technology, in back-to-back meetings or interviews all day – all while managing either an overly loud and busy, or overly empty and lonely home.
So, when in a few months time we find ourselves … able to work from the office again, we’ll still be in a state of post-traumatic stress. There will still be the need to sort out what new changes are on the horizon as far as when, where and how work gets done, while also balancing and integrating our professional and personal lives in new ways. This means that organizations who provide employees with places in the office to grab a few moments of privacy to collect themselves, call a friend or family member, say a quick prayer, or simply find some quiet, will increasingly make the top 10 lists of healthiest employers or best places to work.
2- Socializing Spaces
Along a similar vein, yet a dichotomy in and of itself, is the opposite need for offices to include spaces for humans to socialize. This simple, yet very basic need for people to get together with colleagues, with no agenda other than to shoot the breeze over morning coffee, play a game at lunch, or enjoy a team happy hour, is a loss that almost every office worker has keenly felt. It then makes total sense, and is a strategic move for savvy employers, for workplace designs to include spaces that are specifically created to encourage social interaction – and nothing more.
With remote work being here to stay, there must be very good reasons for staff to physically come to the office. Workplaces will become destinations of choice for a variety of activities that must be intentionally and masterfully designed to draw people away from home offices in order to come together to work and interact in person.
Building a sense of community, belonging and corporate culture is difficult at best, over a virtual platform. While these can be preserved over video conferencing, a hybrid-approach will further improve and solidify relationships that must be built on trust and empathy – and there aren’t many better ways to connect people on deeper levels than by allowing time and place for telling stories, enjoying the company of others and sharing experiences.
3- Agility + Mobility
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we’d best be prepared for the unknown, be ready to pivot at the drop of a hat, and brace ourselves for whatever might come our way next. In an office setting, that means organizations ought to arm their workspace with as many mobile furniture and space division solutions as possible. That way you’ll be fully equipped to act at a moment’s notice, for instance when the need arises to expand or contract a team space for that new project your company just landed, or rearrange a meeting room for a highly interactive brainstorming session, or clear the open floor to accommodate an all-hands event. You get the picture.
The future will always be unpredictable, and as ‘they’ always say – the one thing you can count on is change. So plan on it, don’t get caught locked into a fixed-state with heavy immobile furnishings or cubicles (forbid!), or even walled-in rooms if you can help it. Instead look at collapsing partition walls and other room dividers that allow for a more fluid management of your workspace, particularly in ways that give your employees the freedom to set and reset spaces and rooms to quickly and easily meet their needs. To make it even more practicable, provide layout option visuals that can be accessed through a room booking system. That way staff can save time by pre-requesting that facilities arrange the furnishings and spaces they’re scheduling to use in certain ways before they even set foot into a space.
All in all, 2021 (has been) a year to reevaluate, retool, and recognize that the office will never be the same. Designing office environments to support the need for solitude, accommodate social interaction, and flex with change are just three of many ways to ensure the human experience is kept at the center of great places to work
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