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Why ‘agile’ & ‘mobile’ are key for post-COVID workplace design

The next generation of offices will see some of the biggest changes to our workplace environment in living memory. Vince Brooks of Engage Workplace runs through what a post-Covid space might look like for your business

When it comes to the world of work, humans thrive on interaction and the space to develop social and emotional intelligence face-to-face rather than from behind a digital device.

Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic has affected many changes but none more so than the need for the future workplace to be focused on people-centred design that puts collaboration, interaction and flexibility at the heart of it.

Instead of seeing the office as a place where regulation and distancing will stifle the chance to be creative, we consider this as an opportunity for vibrancy while also becoming safer for everyone in the workplace.

At Engage Workplace as part of our Workplace21 strategy, we have been working with our suppliers and their visions for a future of the new working world. It’s been interesting to see what has emerged and how we will be using these ideas in the offices and places of work we design from now on.

Two key trends are emerging – agility and mobility:

Agility

An agile workspace is designed around the idea that dynamic, flexible spaces allow people to move freely around the office depending on what they are working on, with whom and what is required of them: areas for brainstorming, for collaboration, for peace and quiet and for meetings.

This has been an emerging trend for the last few years, but has been highlighted by the pandemic as we search for new ways to come back to work safely with our colleagues. 

As we move into a new normality, many businesses will be more flexible when it comes to combining the office with working from home. Therefore, with fewer people in the workplace at any given time, business owners may not wish to have multiple unoccupied desks, giving them the opportunity to reconsider office layouts in the long term, moving away from assigned spaces for individuals.

Employers should be placing emphasis on flexibility, be it the option of remote working or different work settings. Having a flexible workspace contributes to our creativity. After all, we have become used to this within our own homes. With a mix of small conference or meeting rooms, casual seating as well as formal and a communal kitchen table or eating space, you can encourage collaboration and community.

This may seem similar to the pre-COVID-19 trend of ‘hot desking’ or ‘hop desking’ as we like to call it. Hot desking disrupts old-fashioned office designs by including different co-working zones such as ‘think-spaces’. The idea is that we no longer have a traditional personal working space. Instead, employees choose where to sit every day according to their mood, their need or the people they want to be with.

We have also become familiar with the idea of screens and protectors, but what else would you incorporate into your design? Acoustic pods for zoom calls? Private seating? Mini home-from-home spaces? Covered patio areas? Living walls overflowing with plants that put oxygen into the air? Now is the time to get creative and dream big to position your company’s workplace for a post-COVID world.

Mobility

Movable furniture and space dividers are a great part of the open space idea, depending on the design concept that you have in mind. They also help you make the appropriate adjustments to your workspace to ensure it is Covid-19 secure.

But what does this entail? Well sometimes it’s as simple as furniture on wheels! But it can also mean others things to help you create the space you need, such as demountable partitions and walls, mobile screens or plants. The great thing is the ability to suit the moment to promote wellbeing and productivity as well as safety and efficiency. Staff love the idea of mobility and agility within the workplace; they feel it values their skills and helps them to enjoy work and perform better. This can also help you to attract and retain talent.

The other advantage of this mobility within the office, is the opportunity to accommodate changing flows of traffic as needs dictate, you can direct people away from each other and privacy furniture can be wheeled in to create smaller spaces and natural dividers. This also helps when it comes to meetings whether they are conducted virtually or in-person, providing solutions that will give the same sense of security and privacy.

An agile workplace enables a business to address employees’ changing needs, fostering a shared sense of belonging and purpose. The focus of Workplace21 will be to understand changing expectations and goals of employees, and to create hybrid workplaces that consider remote and in-person work and an environment that supports and empowers workers.

What next?

A perfect example of agile furniture that offers flexibility in the workspace is our supplier Senator. As we transition from the traditional fixed desk office into a more open, collaborative and informal working style, Senator have designed Play; a collection of pieces that can work individually or complementary with existing office set-ups.

At its core is interconnectivity and versatility designed to empower every user or team to reconfigure their office on demand – from a brainstorm to a workshop, a daily stand-up to a sprint review and everything else in between.

If together, we can thoughtfully consider what the future of work needs to look like, we can make it into one that is resilient with a renaissance of thinkers, doers and leaders. 

What could your Workplace21 look like?

Vince Brooks is Director of Engage Workplace. Find out more here.

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