Since our members left the office earlier this year, we began evaluating what it takes to bring people back safely—not just our own employees, but also those of our customers. We’re all on this journey, and many organizations are tackling it in phases. Haworth is, too. Our global footprint has enabled us to be proactive by leveraging knowledge experts around the world and understanding regional experiences. Through our Organic Workspace approach—with human, organizational, and facility performance as our lens—we identified areas of focus for adapting to a new normal: well-being, organizational culture, and floorplate transformation.
Re-entry to our global headquarters, One Haworth Center, began with Phase 1—occupancy required for critical personnel in support of manufacturing. Phase 2 addresses rotational re-entry of office workers and the changes we can apply to safely welcome our members back. In this Q+A with Paul Nemschoff, Haworth’s Vice President of Global Strategy and Marketing, and Adam Clark, Interior Design Studio Leader, learn how we utilized our flexible floorplate to adapt space for the near-term, keeping well-being top of mind.
Spark: How is well-being a priority in the new normal at Haworth?
PN: Well-being is important, especially in the office space, to build confidence for our members. In Phase 2, we’re planning for rotational work, with up to 40 percent of the population in the building each week. We can do this safely due to our density capability. People who are at risk still have the ability to work at home.
Spark: How are you leveraging remote work opportunities?
PN: We’ve always allowed for a degree of remote work and we’ll continue to support it. There’s been a heightened need during the pandemic, especially while we work through phases of reoccupying One Haworth Center. We want people to be safe and confident wherever they’re working—in any of our spaces and at home.
Spark: Why reoccupy now if remote work has been going well?
PN: We have been purposefully cautious the last months, but as the State of Michigan opens up, it’s important to have members in the building. We’re in the business of building office environments, and we believe in the power of bringing people together for work. There are also some people who need resources they can’t get at home. This is the learning stage—figuring out how to do it safely and support well-being for those who come in. Office space is still relevant today—and will be into future—as a way for people to connect. We’re gathering information to share with our customers as they also begin the journey back to the workplace.
AC: For the most part, pre-pandemic, remote work was done for focus work. But it’s a hurdle to collaborate remotely. Although remote work will continue, re-inhabiting the office brings the connection component—especially for those times in between meetings.
Spark: What does the new normal look like in the office, in terms of health and safety?
AC: We’ve developed smaller zones within bigger floorplates, divided by departments, to minimize circulation within the office area. Amenities and meeting rooms are assigned to those zones. We’re investigating the height and volume of spaces—both workstations and meeting rooms—and how this relates to physical distancing and touchpoints. We’re also giving people the ability to self-clean their space by washing surfaces before and after use.
PN: We have also reoriented settings on our patio for physical distancing to give members ready access to the outdoors for fresh air and open space.
Spark: What will office workers expect to see when they enter the building?
AC: We gave our members kits containing information and protective gear, so they understand protocols and changes in the office environment to build awareness and comfort as they engage with the space. They also need to log in to a self-screening app prior to entering the building. Communication is key for sharing policies and protocols, so we’ve added a lot of signage, too.
PN: The care kit is a nice gesture to ensure members are provided with necessary items for returning to building—mask, sanitizer made by a local brewery, no-touch tool (designed and made in-house), and a Return to Work(place) guide to familiarize them with protocols.
Spark: How does organizational culture play a role in the changes you’re making?
AC: Regardless of culture type, all organizations are addressing people’s expectations to understand what’s being done to keep them safe. Employees appreciate that their employers are taking the pandemic seriously. Each organization will default to their dominant culture to address this. For example, Haworth identifies as a Control culture where people find comfort in knowing how things are being done, which generally means communicating protocols and defining processes. Entry checkpoints, our self-screening app, and temperature checks all qualify as ways to boost confidence in a Control culture.
Spark: Interactions in the same room are important—how do you support this need?
PN: Space occupancy is highlighted for each room via signage. Face masks are required. The number of chairs have been reduced to reflect the approved quantity based on room size.
AC: We’re evaluating technology—audio and video—to ensure it meets our needs for virtual collaboration. That way we’ll be able to promote more face-to-face interaction by bringing remote workers and those within the building together.
Spark: What changes are you considering next?
AC: We’re taking a phased perspective, addressing workspaces as they are today, and testing and modifying via mock-ups to review changes before making larger configurations across the floorplate. We’re looking at all applications but focusing on work zones that represent 80 percent of the workstations at One Haworth Center. Some meet COVID-19 requirements but we’re determining how to add panels or increase heights so that in our future Phase 3, we can occupy with more density, safely. Our mock-ups are done in place so you can see a before/after scenario. We’re asking our members and executives to experience them and provide feedback on comfort level.
Phase 2 planning has begun with a lot of learning—taking what we know about the workplace, implementing best practices, sharing what we have learned, and adjusting as we go. What we do now will lead us into Phase 3, our long-term occupancy plan, which will come to light in a fluid situation. We will continue to assess our work environment and member needs to determine reconfiguration opportunities, including moves, adds, and changes that meet COVID-19 protocol—always keeping the well-being of our people at the forefront.