Office design should be at the forefront of a company’s strategy when it comes to planning a return to work approach. The initial sudden shift, followed by 2 years of working remotely, has shown employees and leaders alike the various pros and cons of remote work. Corporate Design, Sustainability, and Wellness go hand-in-hand with the transition of work life post-pandemic. Those that spend most of their work week at the office are starting to demand more out of their workplaces. As a result, designers and organizations will have to evaluate how their space directly impacts employee well-being and the company’s success as a whole.
Flexible Corporate Design. Companies that wish to entice their employees back into the workplace will have to make the office an appealing destination. For many, the benefits of working from home were things such as casual wear, easy access to food and snacks, and a comfortable work setting. Corporate design will need to shift its momentum from pre-pandemic times that was geared towards things such as smaller workstations and the mindset of ‘more space, means more people’. Office space will need to be that oasis that those working from home have been missing and that offers some of the same pleasantries as home. As companies focus on adapting their office to accommodate more distancing, they now have an opportunity to be innovative when it comes to their design. Employees will not only be enticed by such things as on-site coffee, or complimentary snacks and meals, but flexible workspaces with many different settings to satisfy all preferences and personalities.
Sustainable Design Solutions. One of the first big changes we all experienced at the onset of the pandemic was the move to remote work. With people working from home and no longer having a daily commute there has been a significant reduction in various kinds of pollution – in particular air pollution. It was seen on the news that many major cities from India to Italy had the clearest air that has been seen in many years. Not only were people driving less but air travel was also drastically reduced. Seeing these differences demonstrated that positive change can happen. Sustainable, local and eco-friendly solutions need to take the lead in the design industry. Companies need to push for locally available building materials such as wood in their projects, or use more recycled content materials such as papercrete, enviroboard, and wood-plastic composite. Designers need to support and promote the use of local Canadian corporate furniture companies such as Teknion, Allseating, and Neinkamper as well as look to refurbished options such as Envirotech. The positive environmental changes that came with the pandemic will hopefully continue to encourage people to be more proactive and aware of the impact of their choices.
Putting Employees’ Needs First. An organizations culture is defined as the shared behaviors, values and norms created by those working within a company. Now more than ever, people understand the importance of a positive workplace culture and how hard connecting remotely can be. It is valuable for a company to know their employees on a deeper level to understand what the best motivators are to avoid burn out and build trust. Burnout has become an emerging concern over the past two years, with the inability of employees to properly detach from work and reports showing higher levels of stress, exhaustion and isolation. Although working from home has had its benefits, people need the physical human connection that the office offers. Workplace culture has suffered as a product of the isolation brought on by the ongoing pandemic, and its void has had a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellness. Therefore, a company that offers an attractive workplace, with a more flexible work schedule or more events during the business day or after hours will cultivate the much-needed hybrid work environment. An office space that fosters collaboration and communication are not only beneficial to an individual’s mental health but the health of a company as a whole.
One thing for sure is that employees will need flexibility and work-life balance when it comes to returning to the office. Business owners can show they truly care by putting corporate design at the vanguard and truly understanding how an office’s design directly affects their staff’s wellness, corporate culture and the environment in which they work.