While future scenarios are still ambiguous, WFH has arguably uncoupled work from the office. Over the course of 2020, people became accustomed to flexible work hours, an occasional or non-existent commute, and the ability to self-manage in the home environment. Yet, data supports the premise that a majority of workers want to return to the office—a safe, secure office— for perhaps 3 or 4 days a week.
It would appear that something is missing when life and work are defined by digital experiences alone. Socializing, collaborating, or simply occupying the same space seems to have a value that can’t be quantified. In this context, the new office is likely to push a pre-pandemic trend further, allocating more square footage to collaborative space, and borrowing from spaces that were once dedicated to desks and cubicles.
Formerly, meetings most often took place in designated meeting rooms. When necessary, an off-site individual could participate by speaker phone or a teleconferencing device- but office set-ups were not ideal for remote participation. Now, most of us are comfortable with meetings via Zoom or Google, and the likelihood of staggered schedules and multi-modal on-site/off-site work will require design strategies that effectively combine physical/digital experiences.
Assuming office occupancy will stabilize post-vaccine at about 60-70 percent, a well-designed workplace will deploy furniture, space, and high- and low-tech tools to support 100% participation however employees are distributed across space and time.
A Free-Form Collaboration supports both physical and virtual engagement, integrating people, furniture, and technology.
An open, approachable design in which technology is present, but not dominant:
- Invites all aspects of collaboration
- Offers a choice to meet, mentor, or consult on a face-to-face basis—or to engage via video/web conferencing tools
- Fits a range of timelines by providing seating options—a quick touch-down or lengthy conversation
- Inspires a flexible, democratic approach to collaboration; erases any stigma attached to remote work
- Material and character of products invite hands-on control of the space