This article originally appeared in Forbes by Stephanie Brock, Vice President of Sales and General Manager for Red Thread.
I was scheduled to have coffee with a friend the week of the pandemic shutdown. This friend also happens to be the Executive Director of the Portland Society for Architecture. Instead of canceling, we decided to keep our date and have coffee remotely. Staring at each other dumbfounded through our screens, we had no idea how the pandemic would affect our daily lives. We kept a recurring meeting time in our schedules to touch base once a week, to keep sane and share the experience together. Over the next several months, the conversation quickly turned from coffee and commiseration into talking about the future. We knew we could use this experience to change our approach to architecture and design, so we brought in more strength by inviting regional experts. Our central question being, “How can we rebuild better?”
Nine months later, my friend and I have organized and facilitated several roundtable sessions to hear directly from our peers about their own experiences. This included corporate business leaders, non-profit directors, coworking space owners, commercial real estate brokers, housing authority representatives and community builders all with very different perspectives and one common point of view: The way we approach space, work and the workplace will change.
Resoundingly, I and the rest of the group heard that remote work has more pros than cons — more control over one’s own schedule, time gained by not having to commute, more transparency and authenticity, etc. No one wants their work-life to go back exactly the way it was pre-pandemic. What I — and my fellow roundtable attendees — learned can be broken down into three major work-life themes.
• Location and proximity to organizational HQ may no longer be a driver in career path and opportunities for advancement.
• Talent and resources can be leveraged from anywhere, allowing diversity at work to flourish.
• Setting up people to work from home needs to be a priority for all business leaders. This means providing access to technology, broadband, cell phone, ergonomic furniture, etc.
Company Culture At The Forefront
• Relationship building is different. There is a vulnerability in getting to see kids, dogs, homes and people in their personal spaces. This allows for a deeper connection between co-workers and may lead to building trust in a different way.
• More transparent communication is required to continue to build culture and rapport. Simply because you see people working at 10 p.m. doesn’t mean that’s the expectation.
• Flexibility is key and adapting to this change will help people with families — specifically women and single parents — balance their schedules.
Changes For The Better
• Hybrid schedules with more remote work will become normal. Offices will be used for face-to-face meetings, collaboration and access to technology. Home is good for heads down and productive work.
• The perceived hurdles of going paperless completely disappeared when we were all forced to go remote. We can transmit, share and store most information electronically.
• Sanitization protocols, space bookings and limited capacities may all continue as we return to the workplace.
• Travel for work may become a thing of the past or reserved for important/special circumstances. Technology advancements may take the place of the need to travel for business meetings.
With all that I and this group have learned, I expect the following concept spaces will become integral in workplace planning in the immediate future:
Broadcast Studio: A studio for interactive presentations for one to many in an optimal environment. This would be an immersive experience for remote participants that includes high-resolution cameras, studio lighting, an interactive whiteboard and custom views of both the presenter and content.
Collaboration Nest: Instead of four-wall conference rooms with capacity limits, planning a nest in the open office will allow for greater flexibility of movement as the office space changes. Incorporating technology, including 360-degree cameras at the center of a circular setting, creates a dynamic experience for those present in the office as well as remote attendees.
Connect Rooms: These private 1:1 or one-to-few collaboration spaces are Microsoft- and Zoom-compatible and incorporate displays or support bringing your own device. Connect rooms support four postures: standing, perching, seating and lounge settings. Optimal acoustics and lighting create a professional one-on-one collaboration.
Pitch Room: This space was designed for an immersive sales pitch with a remote client by maximizing the visibility and interaction of all participants. The dual-zone presentation space allows the presenter and team to be seen simultaneously through two dedicated cameras along with content sharing. Like the broadcast studio, cameras, lighting, interactive collaboration software and whiteboards are all present to create the most dynamic setting.
Cafe And Flex Meeting Zone: The work café is the social hub of the space that supports collaboration and socialization. People touch down here throughout their day as a place to meet and work. The adjacent, enclosed meeting zone allows you to entertain guests in a private setting with presentation and optimal acoustics while maintaining access and visibility to the work café.
Office spaces will need to shift to very desirable destinations, be purposefully designed to support collaboration and team bonding, and feature thoughtful and highly intuitive technology to connect with others.
Many leaders adapted to remote work almost overnight. There were some growing pains, but this proved that you are able to handle large-scale change quickly if you’re able to control and flex your schedules. The world is rapidly changing, and this wish list offers a guide for business leaders as they lead shifts in the workplace intended to better work-life for all employees.