What Does Post-COVID Office Design Look Like?
Post COVID Office Design, Flexibility, and Reduced Corporate Footprint
Of the many impacts COVID-19 has had on the world, the wide spread acceptance and usage of remote working environments has made our industry ask a very important question: do we need enough space for EVERYONE?
Consequently, the corporate footprint is changing, along with the need for adapted designs and concepts the allow for what will ultimately be a hybrid present and virtual work workforce. What will the purpose of a corporate headquarters be? How will the budget for square footage be allocated with reduced in office head count?
The goal today is to explore how flexibility and aesthetic can boost the efficiency of the square footage cost and make it more meaningful. We will also examine design possibilities unlocked by the application of building code compliant opening protectives that allow for unique amenity spaces and efficient revenue generating floor plans for developers and multi-tenant building owners.
As I am sure we can all agree, the concept of an office, has always been the facility where a company’s work force completes job responsibilities, or organizes to mobilize for field responsibilities. Remote work was always available, just not utilized as widely as the 2020’s COVID environment pushed companies into.
Now that companies have tested the effectiveness of their remote workforce, many are considering capitalizing on the cost savings from downsizing the footprint of the physical office. The remaining space investment will serve a similar function as it has always served, just in a focused, intentional way.
The Meeting Hub
To have all employees rowing in the same direction, additional work has to be put into efforts to boost
teamwork and collaboration among a remote workforce. Separated employees will begin to feel detached from the rest of their team and may not engage or strive for more effective teamwork, jeopardizing the effectiveness of the company as a whole. In person meetings will carry a larger significance considering they will be the prime interaction time between remote employees when they come together at company headquarters. Company headquarters essentially becomes the meeting hub.
Our Modernfold and Renlita product offering can help with horizontally acting and vertically acting solutions to subdivide the meeting hub for varying meeting room size needs.
Flexibility in the remaining square footage will be of paramount importance. Instead of meeting spaces
spread throughout multiple floors of employee
office space for a given company, you now have the centralized meeting hub for the remote workforce, with multiple teams of various sizes vying to use that space.
Consequently, the goal will be to manage the spaces effectively with operable products will allow every square foot to be used to its maximum efficiency.
Each day of the week may demand a different sized team
meeting in the available spaces, requiring the rooms to be shaped and reshaped to fit the needs for the different meetings.
Fixed, non-moving partitions would limit the size of meetings that could occur in each, potentially causing them to sit empty on a given day if a corresponding sized team is not meeting that day. As a result, the company would not enjoy the maximum usage the and have a diminished return from its investment in the space.
In addition, larger department wide or company wide meetings will still be an ever present need to maintain a macro level of cohesion, placing further demand on flexibility. The space capable of seating the entire company at one time would not be a room to leave empty all the months in between meetings; the cost would be too high! Subdividing that square footage to create the individual team meeting rooms using operable products would be the most effective use of the square footage.
One major positive a remote work force offers is manageable scalability. Each employee added does not necessarily translate into added square footage with a flexible office. Their footprint is already established in the home office where they are based. The meeting hub should be planned for scalability however if the goal is to have the upscaled employees attend the team and company wide meetings.
The Culture Hub
Good company culture is always a defining marker of a successful team, and the overt goal of every company to develop. However, with a scattered work force, how do you maintain the cohesion and common ideals of a culture? The physical space that remains at headquarters becomes a concentrated cultural medium. Instead of spreading design elements, logos, artwork, core values, slogans throughout a fully populated office, the smaller office footprint may see an increased amount of cultural focus to engage employees during the limited visits they make for team or company wide meetings.
The form and structure of the remaining space should be considered as well. A design element like an atrium, or vertically connected spaces may have had as much appeal in pre-COVID design to allow for a larger footprint of individual desks. Nevertheless, with employees coming to the headquarters for meetings and events, including an impactful design element like the expansive feel vertically connected interior spaces provide can help boost the appeal of the space, incorporate additional open collaboration areas, and give a larger platform for employee bonding events.
The challenges of protecting those openings per the requirements of the building code sometimes cause owners to eliminate the concept all together. McKeon’s Horizontal Fire Doors help to segment the communicating floors, making only two floors in common once deployed. As a result, the space is not an atrium in the eyes of the building code, but still delivering the aesthetic benefits of the interconnected space.
Efficient Design Elements
The first area to consider: the elevator lobby. The building code requires protection of the elevator shaft as it extends vertically throughout the building; lobbies are a common method of achieving this, however they are not the most efficient way to layout the floor plan.
Those lobbies take up valuable square footage. Our Smoke Guard elevator
opening protectives allow you to eliminate the lobby, open the elevators directly into the office floor, while protecting the elevator openings per the requirements of the building code. An owner should pay for the square footage they use, instead of common useable spaces sold as “amenities”.
Next let’s consider occupancy types and the separation between them. The concentration of meeting spaces creates a larger assembly space than an offer may have utilized before. Subdivided offices and other areas (“B” Occupancies) are likely still needed in some capacity elsewhere in the floor plan. Using a fire barrier wall to create separated uses can get a bit tricky if maintaining an open aesthetic is the goal.
Our large span opening protectives from the McKeon Door Company can provide fire and smoke rated opening protectives to properly on conspicuously divide up the occupancy types, without limitations on direction of operation, and the ability to provide oversized fire doors.
Last, egress is always a needed element to a building’s design to safely evacuate building occupants, but efficient egress is often lacking due to limitations in opening protectives like an overhead coiling fire door. McKeon’s integrated pass door technology allows egress paths to stay on their most efficient path in lieu of being closed off and rerouted by a closed fire door.
Flexibility is an Asset
If COVID has taught us anything, flexibility is a key capability a company needs to contend and adapt with a changing work environment. Space management should first be viewed as managing an asset for a company: the remaining corporate footprint of an office. Second, efficient usage of the space to get the best value out of the asset. Finally, the space should be capable of being molded to new and unforeseen changes to the office, and as flexible as the people who occupy. Let us know if we how we can help with ideas and suggestions from our extensive product offering!
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