MOI explores how our expectations for the post-pandemic office have evolved, and how we can reimagine the workplace as we move towards a hybrid environment.
From the start of the pandemic, many companies have been attempting to predict the future of the workplace. Together, we have done countless surveys, hours of research, and held endless conversations in an endeavor to come up with answers that will ensure a successful return to the office.
Predictions developed in early 2020 have evolved and are now being refined as we reevaluate the needs of our most important asset – our people. A CNBC article posted in April 2020 shared insights on the expected changes in the office, believing that the most important aspect of our return would be ensuring that staff are “safe, healthy and productive.” Gensler Principal, Janet Pogue McLaurin, echoed these sentiments at the time, sharing strategies that the global architecture firm is exploring as the needs of the workplace change. Pogue McLaurin took a deeper dive in a similar blog post where she described Gensler’s suggested approach for clients as they began planning their return. Part of Gensler’s recommendations included keeping people apart by reducing benching workstations and adding partitions between desks to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
Another leader in design, Perkins&Will, developed a Road Map for Return in April 2020 to not only prepare for their own return to the office, but to assist clients as they evaluate the path ahead. This guide suggests employees return in phases, and only when there are proper protocols for maximum occupancy and a space that is designed for a new way of working. In their July 2020 white paper, Managing Principal, Fred Schmidt, conjectures that “we can make non-architectural interventions like stowing difficult-to-clean soft seating in favor of individual work carrels, while deploying screens and whiteboards where temporary separation is needed.” Early on, MOI developed similar strategies for our staff and clients to answer a commonly asked question – How can design ensure staff well-being? In our Post Pandemic Strategies, we share how we used our showrooms as a starting point to help clients in their own reconfigurations. During this time, many manufacturers were developing temporary screens to solve the issue of social distancing and transference of the virus. As part of our product recommendations, we included these protective screens to help clients return to the office safely.
Fast forward to 2021 and we can observe that some of these predictions were accurate, others have evolved, and some proved not to be as useful as we originally thought. As our team has continued working with clients through the pandemic, we have learned that these screens can actually hinder air filtration throughout a space. This discovery disproved many early suggestions and leads us to a variety of alternative solutions.
In continuing attempts to determine the best solutions for our own offices, we surveyed our staff to understand what they need and want from the workplace to feel safe and productive. Consistent with many published surveys, the majority of staff members answered that they desire to come to the office for the chance to collaborate with their colleagues; for heads-down work, many prefer to work from home. This information led our leadership team to reimagine our space as a place of connection. As part of this transition, we reconfigured our conference rooms to incorporate more lounge and huddle furniture that allows staff to spread out. We also added solutions including Framery booths and Silent Silo by Knoll to create space for employees to take phone calls or have a quiet space for focus work. Lastly, we incorporated more lockers for individual storage to address increased hoteling as we pursue our version of a comprehensive hybrid work program.
“MOI is reimagining our conference rooms to provide effective collaboration spaces with appropriate technology and flexibility. No two people are experiencing COVID-19 the same way and employers and coworkers need to be flexible to each person’s unique circumstances. Additionally, information and recommendations are evolving every day. Change is the only permanence we’ll see for quite some time.”
– Becky Pippenger, Director of Design
Though COVID-19 has pushed companies to reimagine their space, many are seeking to make small but impactful changes similar to those incorporated in MOI’s showrooms. Our team of experts work closely with our partners to develop solutions that meet their functional, aesthetic, and budgetary needs. As part of our approach, we will meet with clients to evaluate their existing furniture and office layout. We are then able to propose new ways of using their existing furniture, or make suggestions to adapt with new solutions that will support the functionality of the hybrid workplace. Some clients may take this opportunity to upgrade to new workstations, where we might recommend higher glass panels for separation and decreased density without losing natural light. However, in many cases we have seen clients choosing to reconfigure and add products such as storage and mobile dividers. For those items that may not be utilized in the reconfiguration, our team offers a comprehensive asset management program where you can store your furniture to be repurposed at a later date.
MOI understands that we are all still working through the effects of the pandemic on every aspect of our lives. Though the way we utilize space may change, our team is determined to offer suggestions and provide solutions for our clients that will empower you to work, live, and stay, even in a hybrid environment.