Passive containers or active spaces?
The built environment, offices and other workplaces, and other related facilities are crucial factors for health and wellbeing. When chosen well, these factors allow employees to work better and more efficiently. The built environment is not simply a passive container; a well-designed workplace can help employees be more productive. Employees have felt the benefits of remote working since the pandemic, when many offices closed and workers transitioned to working from a home office. In some cases, this has created a seeming contradiction between private life and work life, and many seem to be confused about how to design an effective workspace. Hybrid working is now a major component of working life, and seems to be the way to go. When organised intelligently, both employee and employer will feel the benefits in their work.
As hybrid working seems to be here to stay, organisations may have reconsider how they handle their built environment and their workforce; shifting the managerial focus from work processes – where, how, and when people do their work – to work output – the results of their work – seems an urgent change. This also requires reality checks and human attention, especially to secure social cohesion in an increasingly fluid and networked world and to act upon the financial consequences of a change of organisations’ premises, related services, and legal commitments.
A clean desk policy
Facility management has a direct impact on employees and organisations; this has become clear for the general public since COVID-19. The relevance of the design and management of the built environment, workplaces, and building services, eg, to secure hygiene and air quality, became an overnight reality for many organisations during the pandemic. Changes to the workplace, and new strategies to facilitate employees and their work – especially where, how, and when – thus seem inevitable. This extends the responsibilities of the facility management industries from sole on-site to integral worker-journey approaches, including considerations around the employees’ commute and their home workspace.
Organisations need to become even more sensitive towards employees’ workplace needs to secure their health, wellbeing, and work quality. However, the new reality of workers’ presence and hybrid working create a serious challenge for real estate management. A transition towards multiple value creation of real estate, beyond mere economics, will be crucial.
A question of design
For the design industries, these developments create wonderful opportunities to design workplaces, while also considering how work will happen outside an office’s boundaries – boundaries that have defined and walled organisations for so many years. Organisations should give designers the time and creative freedom to design new perspectives on work: closer to the worker journey, and closer to life. Creativity is essential for rethinking the organisation, work, and workplace. Just as more practical matters, like personalities, domestic situations, and design scenarios. Immersion in the home seems inevitable as it allows designers to have a deep and credible understanding of its internal workings and to redesign the relationship between work and life effectively. We need new designs of the workplace and the home. I am confident that designers will design better buildings for us. Their creativity will continue to be the key success factor of places that work for people and organisations.