Futures salon: The Future of the Office

Meeting notes and meeting recording to be updated on January 13th.

We thank Nikki Wildman, Associate Principal with DesignGroup, for joining us this evening for a discussion on The Future of the Office. Before we get into the conversation, we engage in an interesting sidebar on how we will return to in-person interactions as well as the new limits on personal space may exist. “We all bring our own set of issues to the table” and now we get to relearn how those interactions will occur.

“Not only were we asked to embrace the concept of telework, we were asked to embrace it in the context of a pandemic” opens Nikki. A collection of changes within the workplace have global implications. Zoom call became an overnight installment in our work. These concepts will come with us moving forward.

“How does the office become a tool for retaining and growing teams and employees?” Nikki argues that trust is a critical force for building stability ongoing.

https://www.usgbc.org/leed

Five trends seem to be here to stick even in a pandemic: in-person collaboration (for spontaneous development of ideas and mentorship [but open offices need to adjust]), the office as a recruitment tool, social spaces provide collaboration and inspiration, “resimercial” furniture is here to stay, and safety above all else (incorporated into furniture and all other aspects such as HVAC technology [particularly HVAC UV-C lighting]).

Questions/comments:

Have these traits been predated by COVID or accelerated by COVID?

Do we need to expand our transportation infrastructure as the new administration wants to expand. less travel do we need to put $ in the roads that the remote employee won’t need to use to travel on?

Really interesting company data and ideas. The students I spoke with today really struggle with Zoom and working from home. They thrive on social contact and deeply miss in-person work. They also feel like their ability to focus, pay attention to/follow conversation, and find that they don’t get things done without the accountability of a workplace. I’m curious about hearing more from Nikki about how generational differences are considered in crafting these spaces and possibly juggling the amount of at-work and at-home work by preference.

What is the degree to which these actions are behaviors are just something we need to learn for our work and professional lives? To what level do we now need to teach these skills?

Where do we see the “shared office” ie shared?

How does a company create a shared identity among its workers, which has been through common experiences not just in the workspace but alongside it (company picnics, sporting activities, clothing/uniforms, and other bonding opportunities)? Or is this simply abandoned?

How do we resolve the discord between resolving the pandemic currently from the workspace of the future in three years? How do we continue to build these collaborative spaces in a safe way? Does a virtual office exist in the future?

For the last 3 years I’ve worked on a project where I’ve never been in the same state (team members in US, Canada, France, and India). In all our online chat services we’ve created some sort of small talk channel for just random jokes, etc. We also do the period Friday grab a beer and have a social videoconference.

Our company moved to a new building just before Covid hit. The open space concept Nikki showed is what our new bldg went to. Kathy would be happy to speak in more detail to that if the group would like.

What are the socioeconomic influences on the workplace resultant of the ongoing pandemic?

I might need to explain this verbally but what about the replacement of the physical office MUCH later in the future like say in 100 years?

“We all will be embracing this change and I am hopeful that we all evolve our services to build a better future.” -Nikki Wildman-

nwildman@designgroup.us.com

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