by Jillian Tara
When thinking about the future of workplace design, I consider this pandemic to be the catalyst for what is at least a decade’s worth of backlogged updates. The lessons learned in the past 20 months have been an accelerated course in corporate design for every level of office-goer, bringing to fruition an evolution that had been silently simmering in the back of everyone’s mind for quite some time:
1. That work-life balance is a priority.
2. That remote and hybrid work models work.
3. That employee physical and emotional well-being is vital to a company’s success.
Workplace design trends often attributed to the pandemic actually work to solve for a number of adjacent issues that have pervaded the industry for years. Our eyes were collectively forced open. Now, we are focused on developing spaces and experiences for employees that engage, leverage diversity and flexibility, create opportunities for elevated collaboration, and empower productivity.
Corporate clients are prepared, if not excited, to allocate sizable budgets for improved technological integrations, in terms of outfitting conference and collaborative spaces for people to work more seamlessly between the office and home. But also in regards to comfort and convenience, like being able to reserve conference rooms, touchdown areas, and quiet spaces, digitally.
Conveniently, many of these considerations also prepare corporate landscapes for a calculated response to the ebb and flow of the pandemic. Their goals can be boiled down to flexibility, and they require top-down cultural buy-in to be truly successful.
The biggest concerns we will tackle for our clients throughout 2022 and beyond will be the restructuring of entire environments. At the forefront will be the breaking up of large runs of cubicles and desks to provide a wider range of work areas that better accommodate every kind of employee. The concept of hoteling, and a harder lean into shared spaces, will guide design decisions.
Dedicating more of the remaining square footage to hospitality-inspired amenity spaces will also be a priority, not as a way to reward or incentivize a return to the office, but to improve the employee experience upon a reentry of their own terms, to create a home base that employees can feel comfortable in and connected to.
To do so, we have been taking inspiration from other markets, like hospitality, and applying those vignettes to the workplace, prioritizing cafe-style aesthetics over breakroom budgets, and turning cubicle blocks into hotel-lobby-style reception and relaxation zones.
The future of workplace design looks a lot like the past 20 months have, but not for the reasons we may attribute: a necessary respite from gruelingly traditional, boring office space, and a long overdue rebalance between work and life.
Jillian Tara, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP is associate and senior interior designer at Phase Zero Design.