As states across the nation start sending folks back to the office for the first time in almost five months, what will we see change? The world of work has had to shift completely online in record time, and some people kind of like it that way, but many companies and executives are thinking about the new look of office spaces and how they can make them worth having.
For those of us that work outside our homes, how can we expect the world of work to change? What will our offices look like? Are offices over forever?
We’re bullish on the future of work and are fairly sure people are going to want to collaborate in real life, what’s more, it’s all about balance, shifting, and readjusting priorities.
First off, all of us won’t be in the office together anytime soon. Until the glorious day that the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, most workplaces will probably be on a hybrid remote/in-person structure. Perhaps a skeleton crew of the most essential staff will be in the office, while those of us that can easily work from home will stay there.
What this means is a whole lot more open space. No excuses for office clutter any longer. Take out some desks and create some more air flow and visual space, open sight lines. Wide open work spaces are the name of the game. And honestly, this is a win for personal space and increased focus at work.
It also means that you can subtract furniture and add art! We already know art makes any space feel alive, vibrant, and fun, and with less clutter and more openness, a well-lit art gallery expertly hung along a feature wall, focus area, or entryway will not only engage employees, showing them you care, but it also establishes that the space is vital, energetic, and ready to work.
Use that extra real estate for some office plants, which increase airflow and decrease chances of transmission. (Only very slightly, but still!) Fill the walls with vibrant and energizing art. This is a stressful and uncertain time, and the office should be a place of calm amidst the storm.
Art can be a powerful tool when it comes to boosting workplace morale. Use it! To make an office worth coming to, it needs to have more than snacks and a window, it really needs to communicate a sense of teamwork, shared values, and optimism, all of which is essential to a productive and collaborative work environment.
However, there will undoubtedly be sacrifices. The office fridge is a lot less appealing when it becomes a high-touch surface. The office Keurig might take on a menacing air in this new work environment. The ubiquitous box of breakfast pastries is a thing of the past! We’re going to have to do away with shared, high-touch spaces. These areas can be intersections for contamination.
Let’s encourage cooking healthy meals and bringing them in to munch on at your desk. Maybe an office-wide creative home cooking contest? If you live somewhere with a mild climate, maybe now is the time to start exploring parks and green spaces to stake out a lunch spot.
More than anything else, this time of upheaval requires business to live their values more than ever. Prioritize the health and happiness of your employees by taking the time to tweak your office. In-person work isn’t going away anytime soon, and it’s our job to make sure that it is a smooth and conscientious transition back to the workplace.
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