Return to Work(place)

Entering a new normal

Recent news has centered on the burning question: When does the country reopen? The New York Times suggests confidence in the economy will come when people are assured their risk has been reduced. The Wall Street Journal cautions that reopening will be fragile until a new normal has been established. CNBC indicates people will return to work in waves. Public health experts, economists, and policymakers have a lot on their plates—from gathering data to creating task forces—all with information that changes by the day.

Forbes suggests we can at least start planning: Draw from the innovations of essential businesses that have been operating during the pandemic. Employers are likely keeping up with the CDC’s interim guidelines to understand new regulations and protocols. Gallup recommends that leaders offering a clear path will foster resilience in employees. This transition, whenever it happens, is a bit like rehabilitation, according to The Washington Post, and it will require adjustments. Each organization will likely consult with experts, but how they strategize for their workplace will be specific to their needs and culture.

What short- and long-term workplace changes can organizations implement as they navigate the return to the workplace in a new normal—whatever that is? Primary concerns keeping space planners and leaders up at night likely include employee safety, security, and well-being—not just physical health, but emotional and cognitive needs too. Density and occupancy challenges, as well as remote work—and how to manage it all—are also considerations for returning to the workplace. An organization's greatest investment is its people—and an environment that protects employees also empowers them do their best work. Communication about new ways of working plays a critical role in helping employees have a positive work experience and strengthening culture.

At Haworth we use our Organic Workspace approach to leverage our global knowledge, unique design point of view, and product expertise to develop best practices that help our customers balance the needs of people and space in the workplace. In a COVID-19 world, three key areas are especially important: 

  • Employee well-being – supporting people’s physical and psychological health to build confidence and enhance performance  
  • Organizational culture – understanding and preserving culture to empower the workforce and leverage space in new ways 
  • Transforming the floorplate – addressing facility requirements, density, and exposure while mitigating risk 

With Organic Workspace, we help create solutions that nurture people’s well-being to build confidence and ensure they can perform their best. We understand organizational culture and how to sustain it during times of change. As density, occupancy, and remote work affect layout reconfiguration, we help leverage existing products for the entire floorplate—from collaborative spaces right down to the individual workpoint. We use our frameworks around culture and affordances to help prioritize the needs of people. 

Through the culture lens, we understand that each customer will approach this challenge differently to create an effective workplace. Leveraging the Competing Values Framework—a model developed from the major indicators of effective organizations that defines four culture types—we look at organizational and individual needs.

Affordances are the elements in the workspace that influence the physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of people. During this unique time, affordances relieve stress and provide security when people are challenged with new ways of working.

Then we consider ways our family of adaptable product platforms allow for reconfiguring workpoint applications quickly and cost-effectively for the short- or long-term.

Every organization should evaluate their unique situation for reopening in the new normal when the time comes, so employees can return to the workplace with confidence. Learn more about our point of view on how we move forward together.

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