5 Workplace Concepts to Start Taking Seriously After COVID-19

Designers who want to take the lead in shaping the post-pandemic office must embrace ideas which are not yet accepted by the mainstream.


COVID-19 Workplace
Illustration by Rose Wong

When COVID-19 hit, the workplace was already in flux. The beginning of this decade saw corporations, brokers, designers, and product manufacturers, all busily discussing how to support employee needs. At Metropolis, we were hosting discussions about amenity packages, work-life balance, and how workplaces can connect to cities. It was heartening to see organizations commit to the wellbeing of workers and to purposeful work, and prepare to invest in those goals.

The pandemic disrupted all of that. Or so it seemed, at first.

The possibilities that most scared us in the design industry—shrinking of office footprints, the disappearance of perks and amenities—now seem unlikely or temporary setbacks, depending on how the economy rallies. Instead, we understand that the very things that designers, researchers, and strategists were advocating for in the workplace before COVID-19 will pave the way to recovery. “There are so many things that we’ve been telling clients that they should be investing in, and now it’s a ‘duh’ moment—’Why didn’t you do that before?’,” says Melissa Marsh, founder of the workplace consultancy PLASTARC and senior managing director, occupant experience, at Savills New York. “It has always been good to have fresh air and daylight in a building, now it’s even more important.”

Bright minds at real estate companies, design firms, and furniture manufacturers are already supplying us with well-researched guidelines for our short-term recovery needs. It isn’t too early to start talking about what lies beyond the obvious goals of infection control and better indoor-air quality, as important as those are.

All signs point towards the fact that we will eventually establish protocols and find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Then the office will make a comeback, as will the coworking space and the café. We will also find that work can happen anywhere and be supported in any way we want—if we make the right decisions now.

Here we outline five concepts—loneliness, public health, neurodiversity, remote work, and experience management—which may not seem like burning priorities at the moment, but must be taken seriously by anyone who wants to shape the future of workplaces.

Paying attention to them won’t take us back to business as usual. It will inspire us to work better than we ever have before. —Avinash Rajagopal, editor in chief

You may also enjoy “5 Ways Architects and Designers are Responding to COVID-19

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