During one of my recent late-night walks (in a desperate attempt to get my son to sleep), I came across the Talking Architecture & Design podcast & listened to an intriguing interview with Amanda Stanaway from Woods Bagot. I thought this was particularly interesting and relevant to the world’s current situation as she was discussing the future of workplace design. This got me thinking, in the washout of the current pandemic, will workplaces go back to normal? Or, probably more accurately, what will be the ‘new normal’?

Amanda provides insight on how workplaces have developed over the years to become more agile and incorporate humanisation into the workplace. While many staff have the opportunity and ability to work anywhere – anytime, she reinforced the need for ‘bricks and mortar’ office space to generate workplace energy.

Based on my own experiences of working from home after 2-weeks, I 100% agree with the requirement for a physical office environment. As an introvert, I was secretly looking forward to the remote working environment. Admittedly, I’ve already had a few years of experience working from home, but I saw this as an opportunity to get on top of my workload and enjoy being home more often.

I’m very impressed with the way our office has transitioned to the new working arrangement – I see it as a testament to our commitment to investing in new technologies. The quietness in my home office is great for focusing on ticking things off my ‘to-do’ list. While our daily morning virtual catchups are working well, I don’t think they will ever replace the physical one-on-one discussions that naturally occur while a colleague is making a coffee.

This is where I believe the physical office environment is most beneficial – particularly in an architectural practice. By nature we need to collaborate, both within our team and externally with clients, consultants and contractors. The unintended encounters at the coffee machine generate questions and responses otherwise left unconsidered and create social capital within the office.

Architects need balance – time to focus and time to collaborate. I’m of the firm opinion that working from home allows time to focus however successful collaboration requires face-to-face discussion. Something the virtual or home office cannot offer. I do believe that having been forced to work in a remote environment has provided businesses with the perfect opportunity to explore how flexible their working arrangements can become. Some questions I’ve contemplated include;

  • Do we need as much office space?
  • Do I need to be in the office 5-days a week? Perhaps some more time working from home to ‘focus’ will work? Will this further reduce the required office space?
  • Can we conduct more virtual meetings, thus saving time to commute?
  • Can we increase opportunities to work outside our local area?
  • Will flexible working arrangements be beneficial for attracting and retaining talent?

These are just some of the possibilities that we may be able to salvage out of this situation as positive learnings. I’ll make the most of working from home, however, I am looking forward to getting back to my old desk.

How do you think your work environment will change?

To listen more about the Talking Architecture & Design podcast on Spotify, click on the following link: https://open.spotify.com/show/3MoTIaIL6Joy1cK4sJsLCQ?si=FjXPj63PTPuczAlEXVFq5A.

See more from Michael Ellis:

Networking in a lockdown

BNE OpenHouse 2019

Timber buildings: wood you believe it?