Nspace Blog
April 22

Will Six Feet Cut It in Future Workspaces?

Joshua Lapinsky profile image
Barry Nathan

Considering the impact of perceived physical distancing and how we might plan ahead for our post-pandemic workspaces.

It used to be that office densification was driven by a combination of real estate demands and evolving demographic work styles. Now it’s clear that we need to rethink which behaviours are acceptable and which belong outside of society’s post-pandemic comfort zone. While shifts towards bench seating, co-working, flex seating, and hoteling have pervaded workplace design trends of late, a rethink is in order surrounding the future of open, activity-based workplaces.
As we work toward reopening our offices around the world, companies should prepare both short- and long-term action plans that will ensure staff feel comfortable and safe in their new working environments. Short-term solutions may include permitting only 50 per cent of staff to occupy the office at a time, achieved via the staggered planning of benches and workstations, with additional staff working remotely. This can be done by auditing the current remote-working results to see which practices within a firm really need to be in the office moving forward. It will drive companies to reconsider when and how employees interact, resulting in a more economic use of space and robust application of technology to facilitate meetings at a distance; and the redesign of common gathering areas, including lunchrooms and cafes, to be more adaptable for both group and individual use.
Long-term solutions may include employees utilizing a mobile app that could monitor and aggregate their work- and health-related data in one easy-to-use interface. Such an application could provide up-to-date confirmation of an employee’s health data, in addition to a custom interface to manage all their daily work experiences, including booking conference rooms and workstations, accessing secure locations within the office, and facilitating elevator requests. This could all be managed and tracked via a Revit digital twin model of the space, as well as integrated IoT programming via tools such as Microsoft’s Azure platform.
While helpful, these short- and long-term solutions don’t in themselves define the size of our new personal space bubbles. Perhaps our return to work will see increased eye contact avoidance and headphone use — but here’s hoping there will be design solutions to promote safe and reasonable interaction amongst colleagues and peers.
May 6th

Will Less Be More in the Workplace of the Future?

Joshua Lapinsky profile image
Barry Nathan

As businesses reconsider their physical footprint while workforces operate remotely, it’s not yet clear whether less will be more when it comes to office square footage in the workplace of the future.

Firms of all kinds are now inclined to consider whether the offices they shut down in the face of the pandemic are the appropriate size for a workforce grown accustomed to conducting business at home. The question on the minds of many leaders is whether or not the size of their office should remain the same after the pandemic; the answer is not yet clear, especially in the absence of concrete data from real life scenarios.
The needs and expectations of employees have shifted for the foreseeable future, and so too should the physical environments they inhabit. To simply turn the lights back on and assume things will appear ‘normal’, or ‘just as before’, seems unreasonable. One safe assumption is that there will likely be a shift back to greater amounts of personal space, along with a reconsideration of shared common space. Assuming that having less people in the office should equal less square foot of office space per person is a simplification of the issue that may prove useful in the short term, but troublesome for the future.
To begin answering the essential question of people and space in the post-pandemic workplace, the following should be actioned:
• Analyze the present state of our virtual office environments
• Survey remote workers to understand the pros and cons of their experience working from home to determine which practice groups are best suited for remote working in future
• Leverage technology, ergonomics and workstyles to assist the development of appropriate budgets for home-office design
• Develop the metrics and test planning best suited to understand the implications of the future state of work
With this information gathered, firms can begin to establish plans for a phased return to work, along with a set of changes and improvements intended to optimize the workplace.
It will be very intriguing to revisit this discussion in future, in order to understand whether our plans for returning to work produced lasting shifts in our collective understanding of the workplace, or if it was just a short-lived blip in human history that we are in a hurry to forget.
April 22

The New Normal: Health 101

Joshua Lapinsky profile image
Barry Nathan

Putting returning employees' health first, while embracing the best practice principles of design in the workplace.

The New Normal?
It’s quite remarkable how quickly humanity can adapt to change when a crisis occurs. Even though we are traditionally creatures of habit, we have all had to step up and find a way forward. In order to protect our health, and the health of our families, we have been required to self-isolate or shelter at home. Our work life has morphed into our home life literally overnight as one seamless environment, without any planning or thought. This level and speed of change would have been unthinkable in a pre-COVID-19 world. Our habits and daily behaviour have changed drastically and will ultimately impact how we view the outside world once we return to it. Connectedness is dependent on teleconferencing with colleagues, and expectations of success are altered to questions like “is it okay to stay in my sweats today?” or “how do I keep my dog occupied while in a meeting?”
Many of our clients are asking us what the way forward will look like, or simply, “what will the ‘new normal’ be once we return to the workplace?”

Health 101

The development of a healthy experience, starting at building entry and throughout all workplace settings, engagements and activities, is being thoroughly discussed given the current climate and the anticipation of the return to the office. Many of the procedures we have adopted in our evolving daily routines while quarantined at home can, and should, be easily implemented:
• Providing hand sanitizer stations at entrances and all interaction points throughout the space.
• Utilizing materials that impede bacterial spread throughout the space, such as nano-septic films and coatings on all touch points, or copper/brass (inhibits bacterial growth) on hardware and other common surfaces, as the majority of diseases are transmitted via surface contact.
• Treating or infusing seating fabrics with anti-microbial sprays to help discourage the spread of germs.
• Upgrading building air filtration/purification, increasing fresh air capacity and overall air quality; access to operable windows is ideal.
• Increasing frequency of cleaning protocols for all common areas, with a focus on amenity spaces and washrooms.
• Providing hygiene tools for personal work spaces would also be optimal. This can include supplies for cleaning technology interfaces, disposable work mats for desk surfaces and low-height clear separation screens attached to worktops that will also move with sit-to-stand desks.
We can also promote a more connected touchless environment, that can be activated by phone through radio-frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth or near-field communications (NFC) for bringing IoT to life. Motion sensors, auto door operators, smart lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls, responding directly to individual needs, can also promote a bespoke experience.
May 14th

Co-working: Is the Concept Defunct or Changing?

Joe Pettipas and Barry Nathan

Will our experience of the pandemic change the way we value co-working spaces?

Over the last several years, the demand for choice, flexibility and autonomy in traditional workspaces has grown exponentially. Shifts in demographics, advances in technology, and the increased speed of decision making has resulted in workplaces being organized around employees who prefer to choose where and how they work. New business models, driven foremost by technology start-ups, have fuelled a rethink of how companies of all kinds can manage exponential growth and embrace constant change. This has more traditional firms embracing these models as an opportunity to foster innovation, attract talent and develop new approaches to their business and office needs. These new models, referred to most often as ‘co-working’, rely on a key element, adopted in part from trends prevalent in the hospitality industry: a community-centred environment, fostered via a collection of club-member services designed to support creativity, productivity and collaboration.
Working remotely as a result of the pandemic has made clear that many professionals do not need to be in the office to remain productive. It’s also made clear that returning to the office will have its challenges, especially as we consider social distancing, hygiene and the communal spaces present in most offices, including washrooms, lunch areas, ad hoc meeting spaces, and meeting rooms. There appears to be one element still missing in our global work-from-home experiment, and that is the human factor, which includes the social connections and personal experiences that foster true innovation. The human factor cannot be satisfied by technology-driven solutions like teleconferencing or virtual meetings alone. Ultimately, the need for social interaction, team building and community engagement will bring us together again in the not-so-distant future.
Given our current, and potentially long-term, approach to social gathering, the ability to sell traditional firms on the human-centred advantages of co-working will likely be reduced, as the world struggles to deal with the anxiety of personal contact, community spaces and sharing touch-down space with strangers. Understanding whether we are in the midst of a passing phase, or on the brink of a new tomorrow, is one of the largest challenges to understanding the continued evolution of office environments. It appears that most businesses are considering what a strategy for returning to work should look like, and what to do with the office spaces they once occupied, both traditional and communal. While it may seem sensible to return to private offices that promise safety via distance, spaces like these no longer respond to the way we think, behave and undertake business.