During the opening session of last fall’s Almo E4 Evolution virtual event, HOK’s Washington, D.C.-based director of workplace Kay Sargent pointed out that “we’re living in a time when things are changing faster than they ever have, even while other things are moving so slowly.”
Remote work, the hallmark of professional pandemic life, will continue to play a role going forward, she said, but it’s not sustainable for everyone. “It should be an option, not a binary either/or situation,” she explained, noting that with a mixed work arrangement instead “you’ll appreciate your time in the office and you’ll appreciate your time at home.”
Ultimately, Sargent believes that the transformation of the business world going forward “isn’t just about the workplace. It’s about the workforce.” She believes that the idea of returning to the office is flawed, because so much of that old model wasn’t working well even before the pandemic.
A more long-term solution? “We need to be reimagining the ecosystem,” she said, creating a series of spaces rather than just plotting a return to the office. “Most of us are doing this already, but we need to put the policies and procedures in place. When we’re designing spaces, we’re doing it for five to 10 years from now.” This means that flexible spaces and developments like biometrics, augmentation, robotics, and holograms need to be considered.
Business leaders, Sargent pointed out, need to help employees who are dealing with high levels of stress and burnout, address the underutilized and inflexible space in their offices, focus on increased cleanliness, turn productivity into innovation, stay socially connected but safe, and embrace the rapid evolution of technology.
But there are also emerging opportunities for business leaders, such as personal and group mindfulness, divergent creativity, and enhanced acoustics and membership models for furniture and other office equipment.
“If we don’t address the problems we’ve had,” Sargent warned, “this could truly be our Kodak moment.”
A version of this article was originally published by Commercial Integrator.