Published On January 21, 2021When the pandemic hit, the first thing I did was set up interviews with people from different functions across the company to understand what they liked about working from home as well as what they missed about working in the office.
The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been profound for corporate real estate professionals as they rethink and rapidly reconfigure their workplaces to adapt to the “new normal.” In our Mighty Guide eBook, 7 Experts on Reimagining the Workplace, we interview real estate professionals on the impact of COVID-19 on their roles and their employees’ well-being as well as how they anticipate moving forward. In this blog post, Mark McCord-Amasis shares his perspective on how corporate real estate professionals must address a new set of challenges and opportunities.
After COVID-19 hit, how did you determine what your employees needed, and how did you redesign your workplace to meet those needs?
When the pandemic hit, the first thing I did was set up interviews with people from different functions across the company to understand what they liked about working from home as well as what they missed about working in the office. We dug deep to really understand what was working, what was not working, what they missed about the office, and so on.
A lot of folks said that they intend to continue to take advantage of working from home and coming in for specific reasons only. Most people weren’t coming in just to go and sit in their office, close the door, and attend a virtual meeting. They were really coming in to connect with people.
We developed some design principles that reflected this new demand. It was less about creating individualized space and more about creating amenity-rich, dynamic seating that was bookable. Creating a bookable environment enabled us to manage the densities of the building as well as the richness of the design. Shifting to more of a “we” space versus an “I” space was important to meet the demand because the majority of our employees were asking for flexibility when they came into the office.
What did your employees want from a redesigned space?
When we conducted the interviews, we heard, “When we come in to work alongside colleagues, we want to feel inspired by the collective energy. We want the company to offer appealing amenities to make this space an attractive and exciting place to work. We need space for in-person collaborations, project teams, and creative whiteboarding. We want a range of work setups, including private spaces and quiet spaces where we can have concentrated, heads-down energy.”
When people do come together, they need spaces in which they can safely have those casual collisions. We heard a lot of desire for informal communication, spontaneity, and hallway chats. In that sense, we were moving away from a traditional “I” space. We’ve created a new space that has bookable drop-in functionality. We’re calling it the cultural cafe as a workplace design. It includes neighborhoods that will feature diverse types of spaces where people can come together in various ways.
What other collaborative spaces are you creating for your employees so that they can connect with one another when they come into the office?
We want to make sure that we’ve got these action collaborative zones—these spaces that people are clearly expressing a desire for when they tell us, “We’re coming in because we’re meeting with people.” Not every meeting needs to be in an enclosed room, of course, so we’re also looking at creating open meeting spaces that are near a deli or a coffee point, where people can work while they enjoy a coffee or a sandwich.
Even in this new environment, people will still sometimes need private time to focus on their work when they’re not collaborating with their colleagues. That’s why we’ve created what we call sanctuary spaces. If you’ve got sixty minutes to go through email between meetings and you want to find a place where you won’t be bothered for that time, you can use one of these flexible spaces. You actually don’t have to book an enclosed room to get the quiet time you need. You can just drop in at one of these sanctuaries, sit down, and get some heads-down work done.