Recently, we sat down with a panel of industry leaders with one question in mind – What Could Be? The conversation covered topics including sustainability, wellness and what tomorrow’s offices might look like. We’ve learned a lot this year — and recognize that hybrid models, tech integration and a focus on wellness in the workplace are changes we’ll need to include as we return to the office in a post-COVID world.
Below we continue the conversation on short-term changes we’re already seeing – and implementing – in the workplace: from increasing outdoor accessibility to rethinking our collaboration spaces. Read on to hear what the industry is saying about what could be, now.
Outdoor workspaces have been on the rise for years — originally intended to create spaces designed to get away, take a break and get some fresh air. Now, outdoor workspaces serve an additional role. As Fast Company notes, the new generation of outdoor spaces is less about escape and more about new areas for people to work in. According to designers, developers and landlords, it’s an emerging trend that will shape the way workplaces look and feel for years to come.
How can outdoor work benefit employees? Safety, wellness, reduced stress and better shared experiences, to name a few. Spending time in nature has long been shown to improve and protect our overall physical and mental health, so it’s no surprise that access to daylight and fresh air are among the top sought-after features for workplaces today. Stepping outside of the typical indoor work environment gives employees a chance to rejuvenate, refocus or just work in a new setting.
Read up on our tips for designing outdoor workspaces, an in-depth look at the benefits and see some examples of rejuvenating outside settings in our Outdoor Workspaces blog.
Collaboration has always been essential to success in the workplace, but with recent in-person teamwork as a challenge, supporting collaborative work will require new solutions and expanded social spaces as we get back to the office. Alongside this change, the workplace has become increasingly nomadic, as noted by BuiltIn. The traditional one-to-one desk arrangement has been eclipsed by more flexible, accessible workspaces that allow multiple employees to come together and work in the social setting where they feel most comfortable.
According to the New York Times, more and more workplaces are being reimagined to support face-to-face activities like project brainstorming and employee training. In many cases, personal desks are being replaced with “hoteling” workstations — used by whoever needs a place to touch down for a day. This added flexibility creates opportunities to work with new teams and individuals without having to book additional space.
Other companies have adopted a “library-like” approach to collaboration, offering space and resources for employees to use and connect as needed. When working hybrid, a shared flexible touchdown space becomes the necessary community center at work where collaboration, social time and productivity all meet.
On the virtual side of the hybrid model, remote workers are now relying more than ever on digital collaboration tools. Video conferencing and digital whiteboards enable employees to stay connected even when not in face-to-face settings. Since new spaces and portable tech tools facilitating this type of virtual teamwork have become essential, Steelcase has seen a rise in demand for mobile tables, carts and partitions.
Digital screens are likely to become more prevalent throughout all aspects of the office — think TV-like screens in cafes or lounge spaces. This can help facilitate virtual meetings or lunches with colleagues working remotely. Digital whiteboards also remain on the rise, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.
Surprisingly, the Gen Z workforce may be the demographic most eager to return to the office. Socialization and mentorship between teams and demographics has become an important part of ensuring workplace happiness. Generational differences — and similarities — between how colleagues work together can affect workspaces and we approach the amenities available in the modern office.
“In some ways, it might be surprising: the younger generations are so social that I think they like coming into the workplace to connect. They love the sense of being around others and building on and learning from each other and the older generations,” said John Hamilton, Global Design Director for Coalesse.
Interested to explore more ways the future of the workplace could change? Watch the full What Could Be webinar.
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