THE WORKPLACE: MUCH MORE THAN A PHYSICAL SPACE TO WORK

Opinion

May 2020

When a space is designed it is carefully crafted to serve a particular purpose or set of purposes.

Recently people’s homes have been forced to morph into spaces and serve needs that they weren’t originally designed to accommodate, which unsurprisingly has brought the importance of space to the forefront of everyone's minds. When people left their workplaces they left more than just a physical space to work, they left a key source of inspiration, collaboration and socialisation. Because the core components of what makes up a workplace have been fundamentally deconstructed it is our job to re-imagine the office space and design spaces that foster inspiration, collaboration, and socialisation, while simultaneously placing health and sanitation at the core. This is not an easy task which is why we are reflecting on the important things the workplace delivers aside from being a physical space, so we can build a picture of the demands of workplaces in the new world.

The workplace acts as the central hub of a company, by enhancing social interaction a workplace can create and maintain a positive company culture. Although technology allows us to transcend time and space barriers to form connections there are always limitations. We can never remove the basic human need for connection, a connection that requires a shared presence in a physical space. This connection acts as a foundation for trust with colleagues, fosters a sense of community, and drives collaboration and innovation within a team. Co-working spaces are a great example of a replication of workplace social interaction. People pay a premium for coworking spaces because of these intangible but highly valuable benefits that can not be attained when working in isolation. These strong social connections increase happiness and foster a sense of belonging which increases workplace collaboration and innovation because employees become more open to sharing ideas and overcome the need for invulnerability.


"Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." – Patrick Lencioni

Undoubtedly the most important focus over the past few months has been to ensure everyone is united in helping fight COVID-19,  protecting our public health, and mitigating risk of infection. Now that we are preparing to move into our new workplace environments we can explore the optimal design approach for future workplaces to ensure they remain a source of inspiration and collaboration while enhancing our wellbeing. Working from home has many benefits, but does the absence of a physical workplace pose long term complications for companies and their employees that outweigh the short term benefits of virtual teams going forward? Sneeze proof glass, coloured carpet to regulate social distancing, and touchless proptech developments are just a few of countless ideas being explored to ensure we can safely return to our workplaces. Cushman & Wakefield have proposed a new concept of the ‘6 Feet Office’, a conceptual idea to help employees return to the office which incorporates a number of the design features mentioned. There has never been a time when architecture and the design of our spaces has been this important, as we are asking more from our spaces than ever before. 


Regardless of the future of workplaces and remote working, right now the Voxell team are enjoying being back to the office so we can collaborate on projects, and explore these big questions together as we navigate the new architectural space, and continue creating designs to enhance people’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of our environment.


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