Covid-19 has forced many businesses to adopt remote or hybrid working, undertake new practices around social distancing and safety, and think creatively about how to maintain a workplace culture at a disconnected time. As many offices look to return to Wimbledon Town Centre, it is clear that the workplace will need be an environment where employees feel safe, happy and comfortable to thrive in.
We heard from local office design and build experts Peldon Rose, on what considerations your workspace may need.
Enhanced collaborative and breakout spaces
As we return to work place it is crucial that we have space for informal conversations, to build upon the social capital that has been lost. Within the workspace ecosystem, breakout spaces help to encourage conversation and for us to chat and interact informally.
For Peldon Rose, our tea point and family-style dining area brings us together, it’s a place where we can enjoy a drink together after a busy week or break down those social barriers over a board game. It creates a positive atmosphere where we can celebrate business milestones or a colleague’s birthday.
Of course, we also need to create areas that will allow us to fulfil our job roles to the best of our ability. Attracting employees back to the office is a huge focus for businesses across the country at the moment and balancing different personalities and preferences will be key to success. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or omnivert, we must encourage smart working and collaborative thinking in a way that is inclusive of all. Collaborative spaces like breakout areas, with tables and chairs outside of regular desks or meeting rooms, can help foster an atmosphere of collaboration, while areas designed for brainstorms or for eating lunch can bring the team together in new ways and provide them with resources to create something new.
For members of the team who may be cautious about returning to the office environment an agile working environment that includes features such as quiet areas or pods, provides somewhere they can work without being in the midst of it all.
Softer, inviting, and homely atmospheres.
While our work-from-home setups have varied drastically, we have all experienced a greater level of control over the atmosphere we work in. There are those of us who work while enjoying the background noise of a radio, and others who prefer to operate in complete silence. Similarly, we’ve adapted the lighting, temperature and even the aromas of our working environment to suit our personal preferences.
Now, after curating environments that optimise comfort, and in a lot of cases concentration, many will be anxious to leave the sanctuary of the home. This means employees will be looking to return to a workplace that feels almost like a home away from home. This was the inspiration behind one of our recent projects at The White Company. The design was centred around the concept of “going home to work ”. The team created a workplace that uses domestic design elements to create a calming atmosphere, with a variety of working destinations to cater for those who like to work in solitude, or alongside others.
In addition, we’ll see the installation of furniture that bridges the gap between home and work, stemming from a flexible attitude towards workspaces, that positions the comfort and wellbeing of employees at the centre.
Consider wellness and mental health
With a renewed awareness in the need to look after our health, workplaces are set to encourage the pursuit of physical activity. We went for walks during lockdown and witnessed first-hand the marked benefits this had on our physical and mental wellbeing and enjoyed exercising in lieu of commuting. We know that exercise exposes our brain to more oxygen, which helps to foster creative thinking and improved energy levels and helps us to be more productive.
Whether it’s a workplace that can transform meeting rooms into a yoga studio or terrace spaces, a workplace that provides shower and bike-storage facilities, or a workplace with sit-stand desks, design should reflect and encourage physical movement. Designing a floorplan which allows occupants to navigate around the office to create their own desire paths is key to elevating physical and mental wellbeing in the office.
Calm the nerves
Our phased return to Peldon Rose HQ gave us the opportunity to test our own guidance methods, underpinned by Government guidelines to provide a safe and secure environment to support the wellbeing of our employees. Our learnings were honest and enabled us to refine our guidance for clients and in return it has provided us with knowledge of how to continue to adapt.
Due to the varying nature of workplaces across the country, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why it’s vital there is a full planning process in place and time is carved out to make these changes in your physical back-to-work plan. From Perspex screens at desks, to markers indicating where people can stand in high-traffic areas and regular handwashing/sanitising stations – for many it will look like a completely different workplace to the one we left in early March 2020. Water system flushing, air ventilation checks and ensuring all lifts are in full working order are also at the top of the list, to make sure that staff are as safe as possible when it comes to returning to the office.
For members of the team who may be cautious about returning to the office environment, an agile working environment that includes features such as quiet areas or pods, provides somewhere they can work without being in the midst of it all. You also free employees from their desks allowing them to discover new places to work in proximity to potential new friendships.
Although many will be apprehensive about returning, it’s important we find a way to start the return to work. Facilities managers and those with operational oversight should remain in control of the return-to-work planning to ensure all the necessary checks and procedures are carried out before anyone physically sets foot in the building. If businesses start to think creatively and integrate their culture into these new measures and ways of working, this return to normality will certainly be a welcome one for the office.
For further information on how enhance your workplace to the benefit of both your business and your people, contact Peldon Rose.