The global pandemic has made us rethink how we work and how we can make our communities feel safe, healthy, and productive. The priority has been to implement a design space that is different and inspires confidence in employees who return to the workspace. What is critical is a transformation that includes the introduction of Healthy spaces, new concepts, innovative business models, new design features, emerging technologies, and digitization. All this is focused on allowing occupants to operate at the highest possible level of Wellbeing & functionality. Regular measures must be constantly reviewed so that new practices can be taken up if required.
There is also a heightened focus on well-being, and of healthy and safe living and working. Buildings and public spaces are being reimagined and reconfigured with biophilic designs and the right kind of indoor air quality with many organizations commissioning high quality indoor air systems in place.
In addition to focusing on indoor air quality, the built-environment is also witnessing several touch-less technology solutions to enable the least contact and better experiences with touchless solutions such as pre-entry health checks, voice-activated elevators, social distancing sensors, automatic doors, hands-free switches, remote collaboration spaces, network security, and automatic cleaning solutions in bathrooms, etc. Another tool that plays a big part in appealing to a community is art, reflecting a company’s vision in a far more creative way.
It is prudent to mention that workspaces are not just for employees to work at a desk. It is also an environment that facilitates collaboration, influences the mood, and is a safety net. In the post-pandemic world, employees will seek a place that addresses all this. While sustainability and inclusivity continue to be critical factors in design, employee wellness and enabling productivity are now taking centre stage.
Sustainability must be the top priority
The industry needs to constantly adjust to the new policies and regulations that the government brings in to prevent climate change. While developing infrastructure, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, etc. should be increasingly used for all energy needs. The focus should also be on waste reduction, optimum resource management, and energy efficiency. Commercial properties should put in place a charging infrastructure for future electric vehicles as we see rapid shift in demand for electric vehicles rising.
Social responsibility is another aspect that needs to strictly be adhered to. While the WHO and other health authorities have issued a guidance for corporates to make offices safer, it will depend on individual companies to create their own systems based on the guidelines put forward by their local and national authorities.
Fostering corporate culture and practices such as employee training, team building activities will be another challenge. Therefore, it will be increasingly essential for a well-thought-out workspace design, to engender collaboration and nurture brand ambassadors and brand loyalty.
Importance of EHS (Environmental, Health, and Safety)
Good design makes business sense because taking care of the health, safety, and well-being of employees will increase productivity and reduce cost by eliminating chances of property and environmental damage at the planning stage, instead of having to fix it later which can be much more expensive and detrimental for the brand image.
The basic principles of health and safety by design apply to the complete lifecycle – from the structure, materials used, hardware, equipment, technology, etc., to the workers and employees. Designers are in a strong position to implement health and safety guidelines right from the start of the design process.
Sustainability and employee well-being
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by the year 2030, are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals that are designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. These offer a guideline for companies to align global needs and ambitions across their business value chain.
With sustainable workplace initiatives real estate players are accelerating social entrepreneurship with impact investments into sustainable solutions that present scalable ideas for technology, urbanization, and public policy to improve workplace conditions focused on the general wellbeing of people; helping them lead safe, productive lives.
While a workspace is designed for optimum productivity, it also reflects the importance that the company places on cultural values. Are employee needs and desires being taken into consideration while designing the physical space? Does the design reflect the company’s long-term core values and culture? According to a recent study by top consulting firm Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.
One of the most powerful learnings is that conscious planning and design are the key pillars for making personalization an essential element of all office spaces. A positive workplace culture enhances employee engagement, hence productivity, leading to increased profitability.