How to Create a Safe Workplace That Reflects Your Company’s Culture
This is an independent opinion. Have one of your own? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now is certainly an interesting time to design an office from scratch. Doing so, in the midst of a pandemic, means doing your best to predict what a workplace will look like and feel like post-COVID-19.
Here’s the thing – no one yet is an expert in the post-COVID-19 world, let alone the workplace.
In going through this process, it would be easy for our vision to be frequently clouded by the noise of workplace industry experts who magnify their couture visions for 2021 workplace design with social media and content marketing. What we do know about the workplace — past, present and future — is that sickness will always be present. We are all connected — people will get flus and colds, and we need to work together to minimize the effect. And hopefully, this era has taught people to stay home when they are sick, and we now better recognize the impact of the asymptomatic spread of disease.
With that in mind, we have synthesized the vast, dynamic content into concrete, workable decisions to prioritize safety, security, and well-being. Meanwhile, we must also satisfy business needs for culture, productivity, creativity, and support for varied work styles. As a result, here are some of the ideas that we are implementing in our new Sherman Heights campus, which will open in 2021:
- Invest in the best available HVAC systems for air filtration
- Maximize contactless doors and doors that people can open without hands
- Strategically plot hand-sanitizer stations
- Add touch-less water filling stations to encourage people to use personal water bottles and stay hydrated
- Outdoor meeting spaces of different sizes with both heaters and shade (including thinking through being able to shade laptop screens) so they’re usable year-round.
- Separate kitchens for employees and guests, with particular consideration for food-prep and hand-washing
- Reconfigure snack stations to dispensers for minimum contact
- A service kitchen where we could have a “barista” as the single distributor in the kitchen
- Offset workstations for social spacing (where people are not facing each other directly)
- An epicenter of conference rooms for easier, more frequent cleaning
Hear More From Reid Carr at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14 on "The Extra Point with Jeff Marston" on Mightier 1090am
What we didn’t acquiesce to:
- We didn’t create single-lane pathways
- We will have some closed conference rooms
- We’ve never had offices or cubes and won’t implement those here
- We still will have large open spaces where people’s desks will be together
At Red Door Interactive, we have always had a flexible work environment and allowed most roles to work from home whenever they want. So, that policy will remain, therefore, we are configured for mobility. Meeting rooms are video conferencing capable, and everyone has a laptop.
Aesthetic and culture are also critical, so our office design has always been about being a place where people desire to be, rather than are obligated to be. Because of that, people tend to show up and that helps to secure our company culture. It is our home – we want our people to be comfortable, safe, and have a sense of belonging, yet also be themselves.
“Health and wellness,” has been an advertised feature of modern workplaces, but in 2020 and beyond, we must elevate “safety” from its shadow. Safety now goes beyond its classic definition of physical security and should include emotional well-being. A well-designed workplace can play a role.
In the spirit of diversity and acceptance, we recognize, for example, that we will always have both extroverts and introverts. Then, people have family obligations, complex life configurations, and personal health goals. As a principle, we trust people to decide where the best place is to do the work they need to do that day and how to get their job done.
If people feel like they need to be in the office that day, our office supports different work styles throughout the day. They may be at a desk, they may collaborate in a conference room, they may go on an outdoor walk or they may find a place to isolate.
Productivity and quality still matter. People want to do their best work, so the environment needs to facilitate the ways to do that. Health, wellness, and safety are top priorities. Once we deliver those, we can build a diverse, deliberate culture that drives performance and balances success for our people, clients, and our new community.