Long Live the Office
Is the office about to make a comeback or become obsolete?
The pandemic crisis, which brought telework to the fore, also raised questions about the future of the office. There has even been speculation that offices will ultimately close down to be transformed into residential spaces. The opposing view is that workplaces are facing profound changes coupled with great innovation. The truth is that the office will never disappear, neither will it undergo a radical transformation. Since the reasons for its existence are rooted in the very psychology of human behavior, as well as in the psychology of human efficiency, they should not vary significantly during a pandemic or after it. Yet the approach to designing office spaces will be different. It is bound to become much more responsible and much more intelligent. Office space square footage may decrease, but design will be playing a more and more significant and valid role in it.
Office space square footage may decrease, but design will be playing a more and more significant and valid role in it.
Life is Life
During the pandemic crisis, it became clear that thanks to modern technology telework is a perfectly valid option. It also became clear, though, that in many cases technologies require more time to use, they are more exhausting as they put a greater strain on people, while the communication they enable may not be quite efficient. Everyone realized that technologies get in the way of the natural unfolding of a conversation, the overlaps, the spontaneous interruptions, and all that is invaluable about it, like the twists and turns pointing in new directions, suggesting new ideas, which in turn provide the foundation for creativity and work efficiency. Considering this, meeting ‘in person’ at the office remains indispensable. Can the office get a better validation for its existence?
Don’t Miss a Good Crisis
In design parlance, this motto means that from now on architects and designers shall catalyze change in their approach to designing office space. Not through the creation of something radically different, but rather through the creation of more and more categorically uncompromising office spaces. Thus, the change imposed by the crisis necessitated stricter requirements on the approach to providing safety, comfort, and intellectual support to those functioning within the office space. This approach is not about innovation or radically different concepts, but about a new form of awareness of the connection between office space and its inhabitants.
Winston Churchill is credited with saying Never let a good crisis go to waste, presumably during World War II.
The Rule of Design
Companies that have already designed intelligent and efficient office spaces have also made provisions for the implementation of distancing, separation and other relevant policies at the office (in compliance with the norms enforced as a result of the crisis). What both the present and the future demand of these policies is that they are coupled with clearer communication strategies targeting the inhabitants of office spaces. The latter shall be made aware of the benefits of a multifaceted workspace enabling both individual work and teamwork compliant with newly introduced health guidelines. Hence the new role of design, which is no longer about office space planning alone, but also about helping people navigate it with optimum ease and interact with it as efficiently as possible, as well as about encouraging the development of new habits (referring to them as new rituals would be a bit of a stretch), for example, through the implementation of design solutions making provisions for designating disinfection points or transit and isolation areas.
Design will no longer be about office space planning alone, but also about helping people navigate it with optimum ease and encouraging the development of new habits.
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