The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we do things, from extra sanitation measures to socially distanced workspaces. After months of working remotely from the coziness of home during lockdowns and quarantines, returning to the familiar ‘hum and buzz’ in a cramped office building doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm. While many have spent the past year or so making upgrades to their living quarters, the focus has now shifted to creating a more comfortable, relaxing, and stress-free work environment. As we return to the working world amid our “new normal,” the bar has been raised for how and where we now spend our time away from the comforts of home. These post-COVID office trends are just a few simple ways that employers are now helping to boost employee morale, efficiency, and overall satisfaction in the office setting.
Promote individuality and a sense of ‘self’
We are all undoubtedly unique and each has a certain way we like to do things; however, this is often lost at the office where uniformity and practicality take precedence over individuality. Eventually, this can lead to a lost sense of “self” for employees who feel they are just another cog in the machine, which can generate feelings of dissatisfaction and even depression. By encouraging personal touches, such as adding a few personal items to the work area or custom color panels on cubicle walls, an improved blend of personality and coziness are brought into the mix.
Providing flexible furnishing options, such as height-adjustable desks and various types of handy organization tools, gives employees the freedom to choose how they can best carry out their workday. When we’re not caught up in fighting with the same old desk chair or trying to find that one favorite highlighter, we’re able to perform faster and produce higher quality work- especially when there’s a feeling of working in one’s own cultivated domain. To boost employee inclusion, consider incorporating a fun photo wall or cork board where pet photos, children’s artwork and other personal mementos can be shared to spark conversation and encourage camaraderie. Take it one step further and allow employees the chance to participate in any upcoming office renovation decisions or design choices, giving them a sense of involvement along with helping to upgrade the office in a compatible way.
Incorporate acoustic furniture for workspace optimization
Even the most spacious office settings can quickly become overcrowded and noisy with “shop talk” at any point during the day. The added backdrop of constant keyboard tapping and mouse clicks, paired with excessively loud or uninvited conversation within earshot, is enough to put considerable strain on anyone’s nerves while trying to focus. A quick and easily applicable solution for this is to incorporate sound-dampening chairs, benches and wall panels that support a quieter, more peaceful workspace. No more sliding and grinding of metal chairs across the squeaky-clean floor, or the reverberating echo of laughter from a co-worker down the hall. Include private meeting areas and individual workstations along with these therapeutic additions, so employees can seek them out while in discussion, escaping the discussions of others or needing a change of scenery.
Generate positive energy flow with an open floor plan
For businesses with multiple employees sharing a single space, perhaps the most ambitious trend is to remodel with an open floor plan. For one, these types of office layouts are much easier and faster to clean as they have less corners, nooks, and crannies to gather dust. One aspect that open floor plans don’t include is a lot of high-contact surface areas, such as doorknobs and entryways, making them ideal for any COVID-19 resurgence concerns.
The absence of narrow corridors and hallways also allows for greater social distancing, along with significantly increased air flow throughout the entire space. Open floor office layouts are thought to encourage employee collaboration, creativity, and communication, all of which can lead to an improved feeling of positive energy at the office. Having the flexibility and extra space to move around also supports physical movement and a reduced sense of “entrapment,” increasing blood and oxygen circulation that keep the brain working flawlessly.
Put your people first using human-centered design
Who doesn’t want their employees to feel engaged, empowered and fulfilled while they are at work? Saying ‘goodbye’ to outdated equipment and furniture can make a world of difference when replaced with more human-centric options. Gone are the days of boxy (and boring) cubicles that keep employees separated from one another, and from higher management, which can generate a strong feeling of isolation for those working in them. Luckily, modern solutions to upgrading the private desk area, such as shortened glass dividers, textured fabrics, and various types of tabletop options, can give the workspace a more open, inviting, and appealing vibe.
Research has shown that fulfillment is the key to happiness and having a sense of purpose, which inspires the desire to do well and succeed. A stimulating work environment that offers multiple meeting areas, un-designated quiet zones, and various communal break rooms, may be essential for creating a more rewarding workplace in general. Recreational perks, such as employee access to walking trails and outdoor gathering areas, can encourage exercise that helps to reduce the long-term risks of musculoskeletal disorders resulting from prolonged sitting, standing, or hunching over a desk. To keep health considerations in mind, non-porous materials like laminates, acrylics and marker boards are excellent, bacteria resistant options for easy sanitizing. Plexiglas dividers can also be retrofitted to many existing furniture options, allowing for visibility while reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Putting It All Together
In short, the post-COVID working world has become one that is substantially more considerate of how we relate, interact, and thrive together in the workplace. With physical and mental health at the forefront of employee relations, employers are guaranteed to see positive, lasting changes that are beneficial for all.