The new conception of workspace in the New Normal

The new conception of workspace in the New Normal

Workspace design in the New Normal is set to change. Greener, smarter and more sustainable workplaces. But also much, much more digital than before.

We want to start this article on the new conception of workspace design in the New Normal with a quote - from December 2022 - taken from the Digital Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano:

"diminishing restrictions on mobility and a gradual relaxation of restraint measures have allowed a return
to a "new normal." Consumers are regaining some of the habits and experiences they had lost with the
advent of the pandemic, but at the same time they are emerging from this tough two-year period with a
changed and heightened awareness of the opportunities arising from digital”

Polimi Digital Content Observatory, December 19, 2022

The "New Normal" is a term used to describe the new conditions and ways of life that have emerged as a
result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The "New Normal" includes changes in individual behaviors, work
processes, social life and the global economy.
For example, remote work, reduced travel frequency and the need for health safety measures such as
social distancing and the use of face masks have become part of the "New Normal." But consumption
patterns, interpersonal relationships and cultural life have also changed significantly.

The term "New Normal" was introduced to indicate that these changes could become permanent and that it is necessary to adapt to these new conditions in order to survive and thrive.
Having unpacked the meaning of the word let us address the theme of the article.
That is, how the New Normal impacts the new conception of workspace design.

Another report, also from the Polytechnic Observatories, comes to our aid: "From Emergency Smart
Working to the New Normal: New Habits and New Approaches to Work."
. Report, to be honest, not brand new (since it is from the summer of 2020) but useful to understand how, from the very beginning,
companies had sensed that the return to normal would not be normal but, precisely, New Normal.

"One in two large enterprises will take action on physical spaces at the end of the emergency (51%),
differentiating them (29%), expanding them (12%) or reducing them (10%); 38% do not plan redesigns but will change the way they are used; only 11% will return to working as before. 36% of large companies will modify current Smart Working projects and digitize processes. As many as 70% of those with agile work projects will increase the days they can work remotely, from just one day a week before the pandemic to an average of 2.7 days after the emergency is over. Sixty-five percent will involve more people in initiatives, 42% will include previously excluded profiles, and 17% will act on working hours."

Moreover, these forecasts are confirmed by a much more recent research report, it is from 2022, by
Microsoft entitled "Microsoft New Future of Work, Report 2022" which aims to analyze from the
perspective of workers, corporate teams, companies and society as a whole, the future of work in the "New Normal" landscape.

It is worth highlighting some phenomena that emerged in the course of the survey, particularly, for our
purposes, how workspace design in the New Normal is set to change.

  • The era of hybrid work has begun: employees prefer hybrid work to traditional work, and, for their part, employers are increasingly organizing to ensure a future of employment that goes in this direction. Companies that do not hold against this shift in perspective may lose attractiveness in finding and hiring talent.
  • Work will no longer take place at predetermined times and places. When and where work is done is constantly changing and co-evolving with technology. In short, the era of the time card to punch is waning. And with it the whole physical environment surrounding it.
  • There has been an explosion of patents in the area of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the workplace. That is, applications and systems based on AR and VR aimed at improving the productivity (including remote) of workers are emerging.
  • The definition of productivity is shifting further: companies and employees are increasingly insisting on adopting practices that promote work-life balance, increase inclusiveness and create well-being in the workplace as well. Even by allocating company spaces for non-typically work-related activities: break rooms, game rooms, gyms, etc.
  • It is already changing the way individuals use the physical space of the office. It is not uncommon, for example, to see more and more people bringing their dogs into the office. Rather than making use of office equipment for personal purposes. On the other hand, as the boundary between private and corporate time, between working time and non-working time, becomes increasingly blurred, so does the space that these new times occupy.

In this regard, the Microsoft report explains how digital technologies are already shaping the spaces of the hybrid work era. In short, the report argues that there are two ways in which digital technologies and space can interact:

  1. Digital technology can replace space
  2. Digital technology can help people integrate space

The first point is easy to implement. And moreover, it is already happening. Just think of the number of
meetings that have moved from physical to virtual spaces such as Skype, Teams, Zoom, etc.

The second, on the other hand, will take a little more time. Time that will be needed for people to
understand the extent to which they can modify the physical space of an office to customize it to their own needs.

However, some current trends suggest that workspace design in the New Normal will be characterized by:

  • Remote collaboration technologies: advanced technologies, such as video conferencing, chat, and project management software, are already being used to support remote collaboration and maintain productivity. Workspaces will need to take into account that the desk is no longer just a desk but is also, for example, an extension of the meeting room.
  • Ergonomic work environments: new office designs aim to ensure that workers can work comfortably, regardless of their hierarchical position. Improving productivity also comes from knowing that the well-being of one's employees is important.
  • Data security and privacy: solutions are being adopted to ensure the security and privacy of corporate data, even when workers work remotely. If the discretion of a meeting room was often ensured, now replacing the meeting room with a screen will try to design the screens (or the arrangement of desks) so that what appears on the screen is restricted to the person on the screen only and not to his or her colleagues.
  • Worker well-being: new workspace designs are designed around the health and well-being of workers, creating environments that promote a work-life balance.
  • Customisation: design solutions are being developed to integrate worker preferences and business
  • needs, creating customized work environments for each individual.
  • Sustainability: the environmental impact of workspace design is being evaluated to make offices increasingly sustainable, such as using recycled materials, moving some rooms according to building characteristics, and using renewable energy sources.

In summary, while until a few years ago workspace design had to respond mainly to the needs of
companies, in the era of hybrid work this seeks to respond to the needs of workers as well, creating
flexible, productive and sustainable work environments.
We provide workspace design technologies and solutions for companies to create efficient and stimulating environments that increase employee satisfaction and productivity to generate essential competitive advantage and attract new talent.

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