Good Workspace Design Can Ease the Transition Back to the Office

To go back or not go back? That is the question that is top of mind with both organizations and employees—and the answers are mixed. The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for two years, and now as we begin to recover, many companies are starting to bring their workforces back to the office—some full time and some on a hybrid basis.

According to the Bloomberg's Back to Work Barometer of 10 top cities, office utilization is just 36.8% of what it was prior to the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reports similar findings. During the first week of February 2022, 33% of the workforce was back in the office—just slightly up from 23% at the beginning of January. Oddly, in-cinema movie viewing is up to 58%, and air travel has increased to 80%. In December, when omicron entered the scene, New York City restaurant reservations were back to 100%, and Broadway sales are at 80% of seating capacity. Clearly, this isn’t all about Covid.

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Benefits of working remotely vs. in the office

It seems that remote workers are enjoying a work/life balance that they didn’t have pre-Covid. They don’t miss the hours wasted during a commute to work. They are content that they can be home with a sick child or be home when the new refrigerator is delivered. They feel more productive when working from home, and they can better schedule family responsibilities. Working for home benefits the employee, whereas working in the office benefits the organization and indirectly affects the employee.

When employees are in the office, it’s easier to collaborate because there are often more frequent, informal conversations. Being together reinforces a common mission or goal, which is good for the company. It’s also easier to train new staff—and easier for new staff to absorb the company culture because they can see how their coworkers interact.

A survey of 10,000 workers globally showed there’s a disconnect between executives and employees in the back-to-the-office discourse. Seventy-five percent of executives want to work in the office three to five days a week, whereas only 33% of employees feel the same. Of executives who have worked mostly remotely during Covid, the numbers are different: only 44% want to return to the office full time. For employees who have worked remotely, only 17% want to return to the office.

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Re-adjusting to the office

Transitioning to a full-time office or hybrid work situation can be difficult coming off this two-year period of uncertainty. Employers need to remember that returning to the office after such a long gap can be stressful on the employees. But there are ways to make the return back to office life easier. Maybe organize some “down time” activities or clubs. Perhaps set aside office space as a “re-charging” center or even a quiet space for a refresh or meditation. Some companies have established “Ice Cream Sundae Mondays” or “Free Lunch Fridays.” All of these things serve to improve morale and help re-establish workplace camaraderie.

How employers are easing the transition to the office

If employers weren’t aware of work-life balance and employee burnout pre-Covid, they are now. Some are focusing on employee health and safety and are allowing for hybrid hours, which helps that balance. Some have established on-site childcare facilities or are allowing more flexibility. Additionally, many companies have taken the two-year Covid “hiatus” as a time to redesign the office to make it more welcoming and a place workers want to be in. For those organizations that are considering design upgrades, there are a few things to try. Woodgrains can elevate a space. To create a high-end look, choose woodgrains with patterns and microtextures that can bringsome warmth. Another way is by adding dimensional moldings—perfect for conference rooms, lobbies and common spaces—to achieve a paneled look.

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Wall coverings can make a big difference to any space. Acrovyn by Design® wall coverings are customizable and easy to coordinate with any branding. There are endless design options to choose from. They can add light and movement, or showcase custom graphics, photography or brand images. Perhaps choose a nature image to bring the outdoors in or add tapestry for artisanal charm.

Similarly, doors can be incorporated into the design of the room; they needn’t be an afterthought. Acrovyn® Doors by Design can include signage, messaging, photos or graphic images, and they can even be part of a wall mural. Virtually indestructible, they’re made of rugged PVC-free Acrovyn Rigid sheet. It’s also possible to upgrade to doors that are bulletproof, barrier resistant or soundproof.

Even something as seemingly insignificant as entrance flooring can make a big impact. Upgraded entryways that are durable, safe, attractive anti-fatigue—and may even be customized with a company logo—can do wonders for an office.

The workplace as we once knew it is gone, and what it will look like in the future is up for debate. But for now, organizations and employees are just trying to find a comfortable, happy medium. Updating the office space could help.

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