Redefining the Workplace
2020 has certainly changed our lives as we knew them, especially when it comes to work. The workplace used to be the place you commuted to every day. It was where you connected with your colleagues, where you collaborated on projects, and where you had lunch together.
Well, forget about all that. Most of the people I know who worked in traditional offices aren’t going back anytime soon.
The New Workplace
The idea of our workplace has new meaning. If we stick to the actual definition of workplace, it is, “a place where work is done.” In reality that could be anywhere. I’ve spoken with people in their new ‘workplaces,’ including on an island in Hawaii, at their summer home, and even in an RV traveling around the country.
Human Resources professionals like Alicja Januszewicz, Head of People and Culture at Allena Pharmaceuticals, are rethinking the definition of the workplace for their organizations. According to Januszewicz, “The question about the ‘new normal’ is not about working from home. It is about working from anywhere where people can be most productive, know their purpose, and feel that they belong to an organization that cares.”
This reimagined workplace will be where you choose. In a recent survey, 98% of respondents want to continue to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
Workplace of the Future
As we move forward, many may be splitting their time between working remotely and being back in the office. Physical workspaces, such as the office you left in March, will be different when you return. There will be new safety protocols that include virus testing and disinfecting. The huddle rooms where you and your team used to hang out will most likely be repurposed. And many of your meetings will be hybrid – some in person and others using technology.
For many years now there has been a movement to design and create physical workplaces where people can thrive. Recent workspace building trends such as collaborations spaces, open offices, and unassigned workspaces will be rethought.
What won’t be different is the need for connection. In a recent conversation with award-winning architect Leslie Saul, we discussed the need to create workplaces where people can connect, both with others and with their surroundings. Ms. Saul said, “I think we, as people, need human connections. We also need connection with nature, which includes plants and animals. We need to bring nature into our offices. We worked with a software company and their employees did not want to move from the suburbs because they loved seeing the trees out their window. The company wanted to incorporate that natural connection and create a healthier space.”
Our workspaces need to be designed to reflect both the people and the organization. Ms. Saul continued, “If we are trying to make people feel connected, they need to feel connected to the team members they work with, to the work itself and to the company as a whole. We have to create an environment that fosters connection. Not only should the space reflect a company’s logo, colors and official branding, but who they are and what they are about.”
Our new workplaces will not only be where we can be most productive, but they will offer greater flexibility to support employee well-being, in ways we’ve never seen before.