What do we want in our return to offices? After our government-mandated remote working ‘good times’ we are, with some trepidation, about to re-enter the traditional office workplace, after a period of intense localisation. This presents an excellent opportunity and reason to break out of the office pigeonholes re-think, re-boot and re-vamp our approach to the office. During our recent lockdown, we’ve become more aware of where we like to work and where we think we want to work and have a greater understanding of our workplace’s value to us.

Working Remotely or Remotely Working

Hexagon Office reception space
Hexagon Office reception space

Considering how many of our waking hours we spend at our workplace, this reset should be embraced as a chance to apply fresh eyes and fresh ideas to our offices.

The enforced working remotely has made us re-evaluate our relationship with our working environment. I like a good bean bag as much as the next person, but they are typically not great places for balancing a laptop and composing emails.

Equally, we think, two to three months of mandated remote working, in the recent pandemic context, does not constitute a true examination of a company’s ability to work remotely; certainly not for a healthy long term.

The Old Normal

Practically, most offices are tied into a long-term lease arrangement and laid out for planned capacity, based upon 1:10 ratios of office worker to metres-squared of floorplate.

In light of the current context and associated uncertainty, workplaces may choose to review their operating policies, even several times, which may not have occurred without the ‘C-word.’ And while we’re spending the time and energy to do this, what are we really trying to achieve? Do we just pop people back into pigeonholes and tick the compliance box? Or can we look beyond the ‘C-word’ towards improving our offices for longer-term benefit?

A grey cube farmIf we are adjusting the occupancy ration to accommodate our COVIDsafe plan & some social distancing, to 1:12.5 or 1:15, what happens? We might not all fit? We can have less people or we can rearrange the desks and seating. Then what? We know we can’t hot desk and that wasn’t really working for everyone anyway…

We can apply some further control measures – installing a cleaning zone within the lobby, placing transparent screens around each desk (sounds suspiciously like a cube farm – did anyone else think we had left the pigeonholes back in the 90’s?) and adapting doors to allow for hands-free opening to allow all employees to safely return to their office following the coronavirus lockdown. Done, one size fits all. Yeah, not really.

The New Normal and how to avoid the pigeonholes

So, what is the best way to review our workplaces and how do we determine exactly what we’re trying to achieve? During this COVID19 lockdown context, we are all looking to understand the value of our work environment and how to develop this to best suit our needs. However, flexibility and adaptability will be key to successful outcomes.

An open-ended, flexible approach and in-depth analysis of each workplace context & situation will be required to understand the unique work modes, staffing needs & workspace criteria and provide a practical outcome.

Frank Lloyd Wright's open plan office for Johnson Wax
Frank Lloyd Wright’s open plan office for Johnson Wax

Every office will have its’ own physical lease and building arrangements, but beyond this, each company has its own operating style, for clients, contractors and staff, and their own approach to flexible or remote working arrangements. A more fluid approach allows a company to work through how to most effectively implement change with more open-ended outcomes in mind.

POWE Approach has always looked to a collaborative approach to deliver the best possible design and operational outcomes for our clients. We have always believed in asking our clients to talk through what they really want to achieve with their projects. The POWE Approach has never shied away from a detailed analysis of our client’s current situation and goals to best understand their needs and desired outcomes for their future office environment, whatever shape it may take.

With this in mind, POWE Architects a have teamed up with Schiavello and ACCORP to provide a complete service package covering leasing review, space planning analysis, buildability advice; costing support; programming and market access to Mechanical and  Electrical and Plumbing contractors in the development of suitable and practicable post-COVID19 solutions for current tenants looking to reassess their office space or prospective tenants.

This complete and tailored service provides a review of each commercial tenant’s current situation and the ability to pragmatically determine the best outcome for each client.

Give us a call.

Click through to see what else David Evans has written and projects he has delivered.

The Circular Economy

Hexagon Office fit-out Queen Street