Throughout the last year, the work space has shifted to a new digital age and employees have worked hard to remain productive and successfully complete work remotely. A deep sense of comradery when sharing life stories among co-workers, brainstorming ideas and strategies as a team, discussing work progress in a shared, comfortable meeting space are all comforts that have been lacking as we navigate this new remote world. There has been a desire for the contagious energy previously felt in a shared space; busting with the energy of a team working towards a common goal.
Society has worked diligently to remain productive and successfully navigate the video calls and remote work, however, the all important aspects of team work have fallen aside. Teams are missing the genuine human connection related to in-person, face-to-face collaboration and as communities re-open, we need to consider what may come next.
Together again; Mastering Communal Spaces
As offices adapt to an emerging and popular hybrid arrangement that allows for collaboration and independence, the future of the office workspace is changing. Organizations need to find a balance between productivity, collaboration, and safety.
Communal workspaces need to be energizing and agile, as well as comfortable and safe. The workplace will need to perform well yet continue to be a place where employees can come together to collaborate, problem-solve, and socialize.
As businesses adapt to create safer work environments in the post-pandemic work world, these workspace design challenges have been identified and will need to be appropriately addressed – physical distancing, circulation and airflow and spatial context. The key to adapting the physical office space to ensure it meets the changing safety guidelines is to understand how the distance between objects, people and room density are affected by circulation and high-traffic areas.
Circulation & Airflow
Employees should be able to move freely through the office space while also maintaining their personal bubble of space. Address office traffic in shared spaces with directional signs and additional shielding to create a natural flow through the workspace. This should eliminate confusing directions and rules.
Every office space offers different dimensions and design capabilities and understanding the spatial context of the office is an important aspect of adjusting to the post-pandemic return to work. Adapting and designing shared spaces to solve for physical distancing and circulation patterns is a little like playing a game of Tetris. Multiple elements have to be considered and reworked before welcoming back a full office of employees.
Continue maintaining a personal bubble of space between you and anyone else you come into contact with and give yourself a 6ft radius to work within shared spaces. If each team member maintains this responsibility it will be much easier to manage open-office floor plans and conference room style setups. Consider rearranging your furniture to accommodate appropriate distancing and creating a better airflow for proper circulation. This will enhance comfort and light within the workspace, without encouraging a cramped environment. Consider consulting an office space manager to modify your unique office space to fit your needs and accommodate today’s safety protocols.
In the post-pandemic work world, these three principles build the foundation for designing collaborative spaces.
Space, proximity and density are all closely connected. The space between employee workstations must now provide adequate physical distancing to meet today’s safety standards. Staff, technology and tools used in meetings within a shared space must be arranged within the correct proximity while simultaneously accommodating remote participants. These desired space and proximity goals can be achieved through planning; the placement of office furniture and shared technology.
Consider providing employees a range of seating and posture options enabling them to work in a variety of different positions. This will contribute to the health, happiness and well being of the employee. This will ultimately enhance their overall work productivity. A variety of seating types can provide more flexibility; adjusting the distance and overall layout of the furniture arrangements.
The aesthetics of shared company offices often set the tone for an organization’s brand and employee culturen for a potential employee. They often analyse their connection to this and visualise themselves fitting into a new company culture before deciding to join a company. The pandemic has created a new focus on the decor and arrangement of today’s shared spaces. Bright, welcoming and warm environments are recently preferred, as they have been proven to increase overall employee productivity and job satisfaction.
Key Design Considerations & Strategies
Create a space where staff can come together to safely collaborate, focus and socialize. Consider the following suggestions when designing the new office layout.
Reduce the number of people within a certain space and limit traffic movement within the work area to continue accommodating personal bubbles.
Adding screens or panels between people, spaces and pathways is an effective way to streamline office flow, provide employees with a little privacy and continue keeping them safe.
Change the arrangement of office furniture to maximize distance and minimize close face-to-face orientation. Create opportunities for connection that still abide by social distancing protocols. Floor layouts and designs can be created to fit the spatial needs of the office by researching what other offices are doing or getting a custom-designed floor plan.
Extra Layout Ideas For Shared Spaces
- Utilize open space: Shared collaborative spaces that are created in the open rather than enclosed spaces can easily solve proximity and collaborative issues. This provides a larger range of flexibility for physical distancing and airflow.
- Adapt to a hybrid remote & in-office policy: Allow team members to choose where they would like to work from day to day and foster an environment that encourages a collaborative yet adaptable nature. Cater to all employees; those choosing to work remote or in-office by equipping meeting rooms with seating and a conference video monitor. This allows employees to meet face-to-face or continue using the digital strategies implemented during the pandemic.
- Design the space with flexibility in mind: Enable spaces to expand and change as needed by integrating more individual seating, modularity, and flexible pieces.
- Take it outside: Provide comfortable seating and overhead coverings to enhance collaboration and enable teams to work together safely outdoors, This will increase performance and employee happiness.
- Integrate touchless technology: Consider adding products like touchless garbage bins and smart lighting to reduce high traffic touchpoints.
Shared workspaces should offer flexibility and adaptability as our needs toggle between creating greater distance and coming closer together. Design workplaces that accommodate our new world, or review some additional strategies to meet today’s health & safety standards.