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Back to the Office: Preparing Your Workspace for Today’s Employees

by thelawrencegp

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all aspects of life and gave us a chance to reevaluate our habits and routines. With video calls, home workstations and lunchtime walks, employees have had a chance to reevaluate their priorities and adapt the way they work. As a result, our physical environments must continue to evolve to meet employees’ needs.

Staff and employees are the single most important asset and largest investment for a company. Ensuring that individuals feel appreciated and valued is more important than ever. Organizations need to routinely reevaluate their current state – culture, technology and facilities – to attract and retain the best talent possible. Not doing so will cost an organization, both financially and culturally.

Interestingly, from a concept standpoint, most of the solutions for reentering the physical office have been in play for many years. As change is hard, many organizations have been hesitant to adopt some of these concepts and advancements. After a forced removal from the physical office environment, proof of concept has taken place and more companies are moving forward with these solutions.

From technology to office layout to overall building health, here are a few things to consider as your company heads back to the office and navigates the future of hybrid work:

Technology

When the pandemic hit, each company left their workplace with a different level of technology in place. Some relied on desktops and Ethernet cords while others enjoyed high-speed Wi-Fi and tech-driven conference rooms.

As companies re-open their offices and dive into flexible, hybrid work models, technology will be one of the first hurdles.

A Tech Checklist:

  • Do you have enough bandwidth to support individual laptops and portable devices?
  • Are meeting and conference rooms equipped with strong internet connections, accessible charging stations to accommodate individual laptops and video conferencing?
  • How is your audio technology? Audio technology is typically more important than visual. If you can hear someone but can’t see them, you can still communicate. If you can see someone but can’t hear them, effective communication is lost.
  • Will you need to add room reservation technology or apps?
  • Are there any office devices, such as phones, copiers, and printers that need an upgrade or are no longer needed?

For our own offices, we are currently exploring conference room webcam technology to connect in-person and remote meetings. While standard webcams have a fixed camera, conference room webcams use face detection technology to identify and frame the active speaker. This allows a room of multiple employees to participate and be visible to those joining remotely. Some of these cameras also have a 170- to 180-degree viewing range, reducing the distance a person must be from the camera, which also reduces the amount of real estate needed for hybrid conferencing spaces.

At the end of the day, companies need to ensure the technology in their workplace supports a flexible, productive work environment for both in-office and remote employees.

Office Layout

As companies evaluate their current workspaces, many are choosing to reconfigure. Adapting a current workspace to accommodate employee needs – focusing on the things that make them want to come to the office – is essential for the success of a flexible work environment. Any solution needs to focus on creating a space that staff wants to come work in. Otherwise, they will ask, why come in at all.

Adding collaboration spaces, reducing individual workspace, and exploring hoteling / hot desking are promising solutions to support the flexibility, collaboration and connection employees are looking for in the physical workplace.

Evaluating Your Space:

  • How many employees will be in the office at one time? Is your space designed to accommodate a fluid number of people? What spaces are under utilized?
  • Can you reduce the number and size of individual workspaces?
  • Is hoteling/hot desking a fit for your company?
  • What type of meeting spaces are in high demand or missing? Small meeting rooms for group collaboration? Private phone booths for video conferencing?

Like many companies, Lawrence Group has been hiring. As we welcome new employees, available space will eventually become a challenge. We’re running out of workstations, but most desks remain empty throughout the week as employees adapt hybrid workstyles. As a result, our workplace strategy team is weighing solutions such as hoteling, voluntary shared workspaces and reduced square footage to determine the best fit for our company.

As a workplace strategist, it is interesting to learn the preferences of individual employees, and balance their needs for engagement and feeling valued with what is best from a business and real estate standpoint. Each company will have its own unique solution. Companies that find the right mix of flexible collaboration spaces and individual work zones will be positioned for successful hybrid work.

Building Health

Experiencing a pandemic with an airborne respiratory illness brought a new level of awareness to personal health and safety precautions. This focus extends to commercial spaces, such as workplaces; employees are looking for physical environments with clean air and natural light to promote health and wellness as well as systems in place to avoid the spread of germs.

When it comes to design, the WELL Building Standard focuses on the impact of the built environment on human health and wellness – a key set of strategies for creating workspaces that are ideal for employee health and wellness.

Building Health Check:

  • Are there any existing heating and cooling system concerns that need to be addressed?
  • Do you need to make any updates to your HVAC system to improve air quality?
  • Does your building have continuous air circulation? Is on-demand continuous air circulation and filtration systems for emergency use a better fit for your needs?
  • Does your space offer natural daylight and outdoor views from collaboration spaces and individual work zones?
  • Will you need to add any touchless technologies to your workplace?

Creating an environment that incorporates natural light, clean air and minimizes exposure to harmful contaminants will provide employees a level of comfort and overall wellbeing, leading to happier, healthier and more productive employees.

Overall, evaluating your current office for technology, layout and building health needs will help your company create a space that focuses on today’s employees and the future of hybrid work.