Returning to the office — How this pandemic begs for more adaptable workspaces

For most workers, remote working has become one of the biggest changes in social dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as lockdown restrictions slowly start to ease, many of us will be soon returning back to the “real” office. This is the moment when we should ask ourselves, what type of office space should we be returning to?

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It is safe to say that work culture has been radically altered for the unforeseeable future due to this pandemic. And, even though working from home has been a viable and at times preferred alternative for some teams such as startups and app developers, that has not been the reality for many others.

This hiatus from physical premises has laid bare the benefits of the office we might have taken for granted: the infrastructure for interactive collaboration, the possibility of spontaneous face-to-face exchanges and brainstorming sessions with fellow peers and the physical separation between our personal and professional lives. The office undoubtedly remains as a form of sacred space, though it is one that needs to be rethought and restructured, not once, but in constant iterative cycles as this is a time that begs for nothing more than agile adaptability.

What are some of the structural changes proposed by office design experts? Some have suggested a reduction in the number of staff allowed each day at the office and creating cellular rooms in order to avoid unnecessary clusters of people. Others have suggested an opposite route, distributed sets of smaller offices.

“Shunning a crowded central hub for a distributed set of smaller offices that may be closer to where staff live could mean less exposure to infectious diseases like Covid-19 on public transport. Having small groups of people working collaboratively would address the need for connections and improved mental health, but without risking massive exposure, where one person gets the virus and everyone else has to self-isolate,” says design expert Brent Capron.

At the moment, there is no one-fits-all strategy on how to approach the phenomenon of “the new office.” What is clear is that the onus should not lie solely on the workers themselves to maintain social distancing measures. Office providers must now be as innovative as ever and build spaces that are both functional and flexible. This is a time for office spaces that can be easily redistributed, dismantled and reassembled according to the needs of its users and the safety requirements of this new reality we are in.

The core values of NORNORM are affordability and intelligent adaptability. The next months might bring sudden team expansions or reductions for many companies and they will need guidance to support them in the midst of these transitions on how to best utilize space and create more versatile and modular work ecosystems. NORNORM’s flexible system and teams of design experts are here to give some peace of mind to all teams and companies of all sizes as we all learn to explore what the future of work life will look like.