Create the buzz people missed with new ideas for high energy collaboration and social spaces
Whether you like working from home or not, everyone has experienced the feeling of isolation during the pandemic. People also struggled to collaborate while apart. The shift to remote work caused millions of workers to suffer from loneliness and isolation and it’s had a negative impact on their engagement, productivity and wellbeing.
Many people can’t wait to return to the office and work side-by-side with their colleagues again and organisations are taking every precaution to make sure workplaces are safe when people do come back. But what if these precautionary measures make the office feel sad and even more isolating than working from home?
Steelcase (a global leader in office furniture, interior architecture and space solutions) have been experimenting with Return to Work Solutions throughout the ebb and flow of restrictions over the last 12 months and monitoring their effect. What they found last summer, after retrofitting their workplace with diverse safety measures and new protocols for safe behaviours was that it ended up feeling stressful for some people and some spaces looked a little sad because of distancing measures (they weren’t quite feeling the buzz or energy they were used to). Gradually, they saw a number of people — who really wanted to be there — retreat and work at home.
Create a Social Hub
Over 50% of companies plan to pilot new spaces as part of their return to the office this year, and a company’s cafe is a good space to start experimenting. These spaces often sit empty parts of the day because they are typically used just for dining, individual work or small meetings. By looking at under-utilised spaces in new ways, cafes can be redesigned as social hubs that will inspire people and provide high-performing settings where they can reconnect with their colleagues, as well as collaborate effectively.
Using flexible furniture elements, and without making any expensive architectural changes, the new spaces can be quickly implemented and assets can be easily redeployed.
The redesigned space builds an infrastructure for cultivating a sense of community that has been difficult to create while people have been exclusively remote. A range of flexible settings with different privacy levels turns the space into a vibrant hub where different modes of work can happen simultaneously – collaboration, informal social interactions, learning and even focus work.
The addition of open collaboration settings allow people to safely and comfortably connect while moving around easily. Tools such as accessible power, mobile whiteboards and digital collaboration devices make the spaces high-performing with a social, informal vibe.
- Work Lounge – This space is for individuals looking for performance to work throughout the day. Its adjacency to meeting spaces is ideal to wrap up or extend meetings. Flexible digital and analog tools allow content sharing. Work surfaces and comfortable seating easily support meals and coffee breaks. User-movable privacy and boundary elements are provided throughout the space.
- Lunch Retreat – This space includes diverse settings to support dining as well as socialising or collaboration. Space can easily flex to support two separate groups, or one larger group as needed. Moveable screens provide visual, acoustic and territorial privacy — people can adjust the space to provide the level of comfort they require.
- Team Studio – This flexible team space supports generative collaboration. It provides digital and analog collaboration tools and supports a variety of postures and work modes that can be used for a day or the entire week. Teams can easily shift between casual share-outs to iterative work sessions, or the space can be used by two teams concurrently.
Creating a better experience
Since the beginning of the pandemic, organisations have focused first and foremost on making sure their workplaces were safe. While absolutely necessary, safety protocols change the dynamic of spaces and it’s important to understand the impact that may have on people. “Instead of feeling apprehensive or uncomfortable, social hubs feel welcoming and put people at ease by giving them choices,” says Steelcase. “They have the same level of autonomy and flexibility they had while working from home but now they can access the tools, food and people they need to be truly productive. The space is both safe and compelling. And what could be more compelling than a great space and a great cup of coffee?”
We can help you kickstart your return to the office by offering advice and expertise on modifications to your workplace for a better work experience.