I’m proud to be partnering with Method Architecture on the design of a 16,000 square foot office space here in the Houston area. While residential design continues to be my passion and primary focus, it is a very exciting time to be involved in commercial design. As the world is gradually returning to the workplace, employers, corporate leasing companies, and designers alike are having to rethink the concept of the modern office.
While most employees crave the social interaction of their peers and miss the creative and productive benefits that arise from in-person collaboration, many have grown to value the ability to work from home and are reluctant to go back to the office full-time. As a result, employers are having to redefine the traditional workweek, as well as what this means for their office space itself.
According to McKinsey & Company, in this post-Covid world, “Instead of adjusting the existing footprint incrementally, companies should take a fresh look at how much and where space is required and how it fosters desired outcomes for collaboration, productivity, culture, and the work experience.” With the expectation that our client’s employees will continue to work from home some of the time, there is less of a need for private offices. Another expectation is that employees may work from home on days when they need to have more solitude and quiet to focus on a task and will come into the office when there is a need to collaborate with their team on a project. As a result, the floor plan for our project is made up of more touchdown spaces and small conference rooms than we might have seen pre-Covid.
Another key area of consideration is the office furniture itself. While the concept of flexible furniture in commercial design is not a new one, our current situation has certainly highlighted the need for furnishings to be easily reconfigured and relocated to meet the changing landscape of the work environment. Steelcase and other commercial furniture manufacturers are responding to the evolving needs of the office place. In Together Again: The Future of Shared Spaces in the Office, we see various examples of how Steelcase products can be configured to foster both collaboration and the need for social distancing. In addition, the article highlights the increased need for materials to be easily cleanable to promote health and safety.
While the definition of the workplace may have changed because of the pandemic, I believe our nature as social beings will always demand a central environment where we can gather to socialize, brainstorm, and problem solve. There is no denying the benefits of social engagement. However, the pandemic has changed the way we work, and the workplace must adapt accordingly.