The Changing Office: Embrace Your Space

Office space and design in 2021 has to be, and offer, many different things in order to function in a new world of post-pandemic work.

Employees need to feel safe and secure, businesses need to maintain efficiency, costs and culture, and work footprints need to accommodate hybrid models of transient workers. Many designers and real estate professionals have already been planning for workspace 2.0. What we have learned is that there are no wrong solutions — yet. The following represents thoughts from the designers and experts who are working in the trenches, shaping the look and feel of the workspace of the future.

Andrea Hall, Associate, Quadrangle.

Design is all about exploring new ideas and applying these concepts into the real world to make life better. Designing to allow for adaptability and change is now more important than ever.

In the midst of COVID-19, ideas have been circulating… that discuss the shift back to the office. How tall will ‘walled’ cubicles be? How will dedicated seats for everyone be provided? What elements will make up the future of office design? 

These ideas and questions are reactionary and do not offer a long-term solution. Instead, companies that value their physical space and social culture should be looking deeper, assessing what they can provide to their employees to make them want to come back to the office.

Office interior.

Although a decreased footprint might mean financial gain, organizations should be looking to increase investment into stimulating culture by offering large communal spaces where people can be physically distanced but still “together.”

Physical space is important for the growth and mental well-being of many [who are] new to the workforce.

Signage, graphics and wayfinding should also be integrated seamlessly into the look and feel of the space, so employees don’t fall back into old habits.

Office interior.
Quadrangle Studio Floorplan.
Floor plan at Quadrangle studio at 901 King St., Toronto, with 2-metre diameter distancing circles around all shared areas.

Even in the most social organizations, culture does not need to be linked to proximity and instead should be more holistic in regard to flexibility and change.

Joanne Chan, Principal, SDI

No matter what kind of workspace you are in within an organization, there are pockets of space that generate culture. Without people, you can’t create culture. So, you can’t create culture at home.

Privacy booth.

If we can shift our thinking and re-image the future workplace to be purpose-focused, it can still be dynamic, creative and energy-charged.

New office layout.

Ram Srinivaran, Managing Director of Consulting, Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL)

Think strategy before you think design. If you think design before you think strategy, it’s the tail wagging the dog.

If things are more virtual than your workflow, your workforce will also need to be fully agile, nimble [and] flexible.

Office interior.

If business models are changing, then of course their real estate work plans will change. 

Eric Yorath, Principal, Figure3

Little attention has been given to the psychological and emotional strain many of us endured during the pandemic; the expertise that will be needed to address this strain; and the role of the workplace in making the return-to-work more manageable.

The future office will likely function more as a hub for corporate culture, providing staff with supportive community and well-being, rather than the mandatory 9-to-5 destination.

Flight centre, Toronto.
Flight Centre Toronto

The role of Human Resources will likely change as well to meet the need for more adaptive HR policies. There’s a huge opportunity to further reimagine what the workplace can offer.

Ontario Power Generation
Ontario Power Generation

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Joel Kranc

Written By

Joel is the Editor and Deputy Publisher of Your Workplace. He is an experienced and award-winning editor, writer and communications professional. Joel began his career as a journalist and reporter covering the U.S. retirement and institutional investment market. Joel is author of Retirement Planning in 8 Easy Steps: The Brief Guide to Lifelong Financial Freedom.


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