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INSIGHTS: Decisions, Decisions. Defining the Right Workplace Strategy.

COVID RTW Planning 3

Where some businesses are putting in place detailed plans, others are saying “what’s the rush”.

A recent article in The New York Times summarizes well what we’ve been hearing from our corporate clients the past month: there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how, when, or even IF, office-based employees will return to the workplace. Where some businesses, Bergmann included, are putting in place detailed plans to allow employees to return in the near-term, others are saying “what’s the rush?”. As noted in the article, the vice chairman of Prudential states that he expects fewer than 70% of employees to return to the office, even after a vaccine is available.

The COVID-19 pandemic is redefining what it means to “go to work” and how we do work. As a business leader, where do you start? You know that you need to develop a strategic response so you can move forward and enable business operations to stay financially viable. You also need to now do so under rules and recommendations that extend well beyond the way you previously operated. Most importantly, you need to satisfy your workforce and your customers, rekindling a trust that encourages your employees to perform well, and your customers to return your attention.

There are a number of factors that leaders need to think about strategically when it comes to adapting their workplaces. Our perspective is that the right solution aligns these factors around how your people work individually and collectively, and considers both the near-term workplace re-opening and the long run vision for how work will function in the future. Our resilient design team has created a holistic workplace planning process to help clients design and adapt their workplaces with this in mind.

The first step is understanding the various aspects that are required for successful business operations moving forward, and to what extent they impact your work styles and physical spaces. While all are important on some levels, the degree to which they are implemented may vary across business or even individual office locations. Implementing these is a balancing act, with your culture and people as the core around which the rest should be designed and implemented:

  • Health and safety of employees, customers and visitors
  • Compliance with government regulations
  • Design and layout of spaces
  • Employee and user expectations of the space
  • Building engineering considerations
  • Budgetary resources
  • Temporary vs. permanent solutions
  • Decisions based on scientific data vs. anecdotal findings
  • Business operations and corporate culture

The team here at Bergmann works with clients to assess these factors through a comprehensive audit, bringing in experts in interior design, architecture, engineering, cleanroom protocols and other practices to collaboratively assess the business needs, environment and facilities, identify any gaps and determine the most effective way to prioritize and balance these inputs. From there, the team compiles a series of recommendations for creating safe, flexible and people-focused spaces to meet the needs of employees and users, support business and operational goals, and ensure that the facility is prepared for future disruptive events.

As is true with many aspects of our lives and society, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the design of workplaces and facilities. How we adapt, and how the changes made are perceived by employees and customers, will be determined by the decisions you make now as an owner or executive. At its most simplistic, design is about making informed decisions. And while there isn’t a single right answer that fits everyone, considering a holistic view and appreciating the many factors and solutions that impact workplace design is the key to finding the right answer for you.