The commercial office space needs a rebrand before opening back up for business. It can’t stay vacant forever. A change will be needed to entice and gracefully ease the workforce back. Cubicles, white walls, open floor plans, etc. need to be reimaged.
The majority of individuals that were sent to work remotely aren’t dying to commute back to their office. The old 9 to 5 lifestyle needs a pivot. The business world kept spinning when we all logged into Zoom while wearing sweatpants and now we have that lifestyle taste, the “I work from home” taste.
Unfortunately all good things wear thin over time. The individuals that have been working remote, locked in their home, apartment, closet, attic, have mentally taken a hit. They’ve underestimated the importance of the office experience and the connection with their colleagues. They dream for any face-to-face interactions. Human connection and socialization is needed more than ever. It was fun at first but then the lack of socialization, the high speed internet, fast printers, unlimited office supplies are starting to outweigh the new benefits of working remotely. These things we took for granted, are now becoming relevant and prevalent and are far more recognized. So how do we mix, embrace and take the best aspects of both worlds and come out on the other side of COVID-19?
How will the commercial space look in 2021? How can design help change the landscape to please this post COVID-19 pandemic/new generation employee? Here are three examples of how Mirada and myself have changed our office experience for our employees moving forward in 2021.
The Open Floor Plan is FADING
Remember the open floor plan trend 10 years ago? It’s safe to say even before COVID-19, the open concept was fading out. Walking outside to take a phone call is not a desired need by any employee. But wait, I’m not saying you should dust off the old cubicle walls yet. Not at all.
Honestly I feel like we can use our house (the Duet Design Group’s office) as an example of what a 2021 commercial office should look like and act as. Our office feels like a nice environment for a home away from home.
I think all owners should evaluate the importance of creating an office that feels like a home away from home. Us business owners need to really evaluate how employees go about using their days.
As designers, as well as business owners, both Miranda and I wanted to build unique spaces throughout our office for everyone to use. Common spaces with comfy chairs, large tables, natural light, room to stand up while working, outdoor seating with shade. Shared spaces that are welcoming to use. We want our employees to love to be here and to feel like it’s really comfortable. It’s functional. It’s nice. It’s bright. It’s airy. Miranda and I used to laugh saying our office mostly likely will be nicer than most of our homes. And in that way, you feel proud to get to go to work.
A great example of a company that took this direction is Private Office. This client of Duet Design Group, wanted to make sure their employees loved their work space. They invested in their office by adding great art, multiple options to sit, comfortable chairs to list a few. View the full project here.
The Flex Work Week
Denver has been fair with their regulations to small businesses to keep them operational and not shut. Duet Design Group has not closed the doors to our employees (besides a couple weeks last spring) due to COVID-19. We’ve updated and followed all the guidelines to allow employees the ability to use the office as needed, especially our designers with our extensive library, throughout this pandemic.
The biggest adjustment we enforced from the start was implementing a flex schedule for the team. This flex schedule gave all employees an option to work remote a couple days a week. This way, our office can keep the number of employees in the office to a minimum each day. With some planning, each individual knows what days they are in the office and what days they are remote.
The overarching comment we heard from the start was our employees still liked coming to work because they could get more work done. The balance of separating work life from personal life gets difficult when working remote. That separation of church and state is still good for the human experience and we want to embrace it.
Post COVID-19 pandemic, we plan to keep this option open to the employees that enjoyed this remote balance. Some employees might opt-in to working from the office 5 days a week and other employees might keep this flex schedule. What we now know from this pandemic is our team can handle change and if this culture works better for an employee we encourage it.
The water cooler is far from obsolete, it just looks different in 2021. The water cooler or the break room or common space is the spot all employees don’t want to admit they need but subconsciously love. The space where an employee can sit, eat, mingle and chat with others. The ideal common space is located in the middle of it all and not set in the back. By placing it in the middle, you are promoting employees to walk through it and stop to chat. The old break room was closed off and typically found out of sight. At the Duet Design Group office our common space is in the middle with no doors.
When considering a common space, we think about our homes and what rooms are the most welcoming. If an employee is swinging by to work a couple hours, we want the common space to be welcoming so while they are in the office they can enjoy a moment to talk with others.
Dev + M