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    The Top 10 Conversations Every Business Needs to Have About Their Space

    Discussions about public space are dominating the conversation

    You’ve seen a lot of stories on COVID and the workplace in your feed. You’re probably wondering, how many of them do I actually need to read? Here’s the good news. We read them so you don’t have to.  

    Our team has been pouring over white papers, think pieces and panel discussions to hear what people have to say. We’ve been listening.  And when you listen, there are some things that start to stand out.  

    To save you some time, we’ve taken that information and made a list of the Top 10 conversations you should be having about your space. These are conversations that are going to affect your people and your bottom line. 

    And let’s be clear, this isn’t really about building a return-to-work strategy. People have been out there working this whole time. It’s not a return. It’s a re-integration. Or as one of our team members called it, a reunion. This is a time to re-connect and remember why we do what we do. And why the people we do it with are so important. 

    Resilient space

    Bottom line, we need to start making spaces that are resilient all the time. Not just during a crisis. It’s the 21st century. Figure out what you need right now. But be ready for the waves of change that are bound to come. Because statistics shows that the second wave of COVID is going to be even bigger than the first. Interior construction has all the tools it needs to be proactive instead of reactive. 

    Distributed workspace

    Because of the pandemic we’re finding new ways to manage productivity and personal boundaries. How close can our teams be to each other? This isn’t just about guidelines from the Center for Disease Control. It’s about making your people comfortable so they can drive business. Find out what they want. Provide them a space where they don’t have to worry so they can focus on what they do best. 

    Photo courtesy of HDR © 2021 Dan Schwalm

    Design crossover

    Now, personal comfort is about safety and less about convenience. Companies need to limit the spread of infection, but still be a place where people want to work. Hospitals have field tested this problem for years. Now we can apply that knowledge of healthcare design to any shared space. This means you can create a healthy, highly controlled environment outside of a hospital. 

    Materiality

    Want to be safe? Don’t. Touch. Anything. Impossible. That’s why workspaces need to be safe to touch and easy to disinfect. Get rid of all the nooks and crannies where germs can hide. Use materials with anti-bacterial properties. Choose wisely and you don’t have to compromise aesthetics for safety. 

    Physical and mental health

    Most of us have never lived through a time that has put such a collective strain on our physical and mental health. People can’t do anything if they don’t feel safe. And work is a part of that. As we reimagine what workplaces look like, we have a chance to build trust with our people. Respect them by keeping in constant communication.  

    New protocols

    How people behave is the number one factor in managing the spread of disease. Welcome to the six-foot office. Keep your distance, create a safe path through the environment and reduce transmission. New offices need more hygiene safeguards and less interaction points. We all have to design with that in mind to manage spaces and communities.  

    Touch-free

    These days, the idea of a touch-free workspace sounds pretty great. Now is the time to figure out what touch-free means to you. Is it motion sensors? Pressure sensors? Voice control? A combo of all three? It might even be something that hasn’t been developed yet. Be ready for it. 

    Technology infrastructure

    Even with a green light to go back to the office, not everyone is going to return. Workspaces have to support people wherever their desks are. Integrated technology is the relationship builder that brings people together whether they’re in the office or at home. To get the best from your team you have to make that connection as seamless as possible. 

    Technology applications

    If you want people in your space, you need to prove its safe to be there. Building owners will use tech to monitor spaces and deliver data the people who use it. Air quality levels. Cleaning schedules. Usable areas. People are expecting this information to decide where they’re comfortable going. You have to be ready to provide it.

    Air quality

    Everyone hates wearing a mask, but a lot of people don’t feel safe without one. That’s why air filtration is the key to making people breathe easy in every sense. Accommodating airflow and HVAC systems fit into the design of the built environment is non-negotiable. Air quality is now table stakes. 

    This conversation is just beginning

    The next few months are going to a challenge, but it can also lead to wonderful discoveries. Talk to your people and find out what they need. Then unlock the potential of your building. Build something better. 

    Resources and Further Reading

    Building Design + Construction: Pandemic preparedness: How hospitals can adapt buildings to address worst-case scenarios ↗ 

    Building Design + Construction: The pillars of work ↗

    BWBR: Design Thinking Series: Future of the Workplace (Episode 1) ↗

    CBRE:  COVID-19 and the Future of Furniture ↗  

    Cushman & Wakefield : 6 Feet Office ↗  

    Fast Company: Companies are rushing to reopen their offices. Here’s what they’re getting wrong ↗ 

    Gensler: Taking Care of Each Other in the Post-Pandemic Open Office ↗

    Gensler: What Happens When We Return to the Workplace ↗

    Interior Architects: A Changed World: What Happens When we Return to the Office? ↗

    JLL:  COVID-19: Global Real Estate Implications ↗

    Resilient Design Institute:  Boosting Organizational Resilience and Managing Change in Crisis ↗ 

    The New York Times: What Will Tomorrow’s Workplace Bring? More Elbow Room, for Starters ↗ 

    The Commercial Interior Design Association - Collective D(esign): Responding to Change ↗

    The Commercial Interior Design Association - Collective D(esign): Healthcare Designers at the Forefront ↗

    Work Design Magazine: Facing Uncertainty With Flexibility: Creating Return To Work Guidelines

    Work Design Magazine: What People Can Expect From Their Workplace Post-COVID-19 ↗ 

    Part of a series around the top 10 conversations every business needs to have about their space. 

    This article is part of a series on rethinking space.

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