Perspectives May 1, 2024

Dos and Don’ts for the New Workplace

Are we back to work? Employers say yes, employees say – sometimes. As we undergo a fundamental shift in how and where we work, here’s what our designers see as the do’s and don’ts for a new way of working:

Don’t: Ice the Cake First.
The experience, the amenities, the furniture: these make your workplace unique. But before you get there, start with the basics. Does the wi-fi drop? Are there places to take private calls? How’s the temperature? If the invisible experience is off, the visible won’t matter.

Don’t: Count Days In/Out.
Rather than focusing on when and whether your people are in the office, focus on what you want your teams to achieve. What do they need from a physical workplace in order to be successful? What are the high-value, in-person activities that bring them into the office?

Photo by Ed Reeve
Photo by Garrett Rowland

Do: Stay Flexible. 
Flexible furniture and a range of spatial experiences are key to making the workplace attractive to all employees. Make room for the “what-if’s”, too: create spaces for emerging experiences – ideas, solutions, and arrangements that we haven’t imagined yet, but that are just around the corner.

Do: Invest in Sunshine.
Incorporating sustainable design – including daylighting — into your project early delivers a significant return on investment, thanks to resource efficiencies, employee well-being, and improved operations and maintenance.

Do: Think like a Director.
Lights, camera, action: the new workplace requires a new level of support for video calls. Think curated backdrops, lighting, and acoustics, and create spaces to meet this need.

Don’t: Overdo It.
Purpose and thoughtfulness are edging out opulence and expense. Increasingly, clients are selecting high-quality, long-lasting materials over high-flash, short-term finishes. For lifecycle costs, planetary impact, and spatial experience, consider designing for sufficiency, rather than excess. Enough can be just right.

Photo by Ema Peter Photography
Photo by Hufton+Crow

Do: Sweat your Assets.
One trend we’re seeing a lot of: doing more with less. Whether it’s about having less space but making that space impeccable, or opening space for other uses like business incubation, co-working, or community engagement, look for ways to get more from your real estate.

Don’t: Design for Yourself.
You already know what works for you. It’s time to look at what’s not working for others — not just for current employees, but for new generations coming into the workplace. What are the bars to access and engagement? Get the data, have the conversations, and work together to build something new, inclusive, authentic, and meaningful.