Unnecessary office?

The global pandemic Covid-19 has changed a whole lot how we relate to work and specially towards workplaces. Since spring 2020 almost all office workers have been quided to work remotely from home offices. Long awaited freedom for some, and prison to those who need social contacts to stay sane.  First qualitative studies show that many employees globally feel they will work more remotely after the pandemic is over. When asked, majority feels 3-4 days a week would be the new normal for remote work. Where will this lead? 

Vitra, a well-known design company held their annual two-day Vitra Summit on 22- 23 of October, exceptionally online. The seminar was divided into four categories, “The Human and the office”, “dynamic Spaces”, “Design matters” and “Remote World”. All themes dealt more or less the changed situation we are facing and how it effects to the ways we are working. The message was clear. “We are living in a totally new world. The attitude environment changed at the same phase as the physical environment around was closed. As I work in a field of workplace development, I deal this theme in my text.

Vitra Summit 2020

What comes to working during these abnormal times, it is evident that many psychological or trust related barriers were concurred overnight. Things that were said to be impossible to arrange worked out fast and quite easily. Learning curve in adapting new technologies and online working methods surprised us all. We have seen a peak on efficiency when meetings have been taken to Teams and no time has been wasted on moving from place to another. At the same time the number of meetings during the workday has exploded, activity during workdays has crashed down, there is less recovery time between meetings and spontaneous ideation with colleagues has dropped close to zero.  Good or bad, the way we consider our offices has changed, probably for good. 

In a discussion “will we miss the office if it disappears? The participants shared a common vision that the offices as we known will change. They are too expensive and as many feels, also too dangerous. At the same time the speakers in many discussions raised up the fact that we people are social animals. We get energized when we meet other people. Ideation and innovations don’t happen in a vacuum. Co-creation is more fruitful when people share a physical space. 

It came clear that most of the speakers felt that offices will get more dynamic. We have spoken of dynamic offices for a quite some time, but it in real life we have still designed open platform and multifunctional offices that are quite fixed. To be able to narrow down spaces into smaller sections or connect them into bigger co-creation spaces in according to the needs and situations will be the future. Also the seamless interaction of physical space and digital environments will take over. 

Remote working has become to stay, if we agree with the summit speakers. This has an impact on environment, our health and also our homes.  If the companies won’t have such a huge offices in the future will they provide ergonomic home office systems together with all the latest digital tools to the employees.  Will homes work as an office hub for one or will we see the raise of small city block hubs or co-working spaces? How we ensure that the company goals are achieved if people don’t interact face to face? Does this mean shifting down the fast speed of business economics? Is this just a momentary phase that we won’t even remember in ten years? A lot of open questions that we can start answering with empathy and design.

Tarja Paanola
SID Student @Laurea

#officespace #workplace #remoteoffice #covid19 #newnormal


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