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Approaching a Return to Office Mandate

Recently, Disney CEO Bob Iger made the call to have all hybrid employees return to corporate offices four days a week. Although stricter than most large companies, Iger’s mandated four-day-per-week model is an effort to increase in-person collaboration, a tool he states is necessary in a creative business like Disney.

"And in a creative business like ours, nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe, and create with peers that comes from being physically together, nor the opportunity to grow professionally by learning from leaders and mentors.”

In the AEC industry (Architecture, Engineering, Construction), we saw a similar approach early in the pandemic. As a highly collaborative and creative industry, we were slightly quicker to return to office with hybrid working models and with consideration of team health and safety. Creatives thrive in a collaborative environment and especially within design teams, there is a need for in-person meetings and workshops. The construction teams, of course, were working in-person throughout the pandemic.

With other industries now making the move back into office, it begs the question: How can you make the return-to-office an attractive option for your team?

In our experience, the approach should be gradual, transparent, and intentional. Most importantly, welcoming your team back into a thoughtful space that allows them to feel comfortable, safe and with their concerns understood. Below we have outlined some tips and tricks for updating and providing a space employees will thrive in.

Upon entering the space, make sure your team knows where to go, how to get there, and what amenities are offered using wayfinding and signage. Improving circulation will provide an efficient and functional workspace for your team and eliminate hesitation.

Ensuring there is adequate space between workstations, meeting areas, lounges, and in lunchrooms for ease of access and differing comfort levels.

Provide areas where employees can take a break from sitting at their workstations and collaborate comfortably as a team. Creating “neighborhoods” for specific teams with workstations and lounge/meeting areas adjacent to one another will reinforce the community vibe.

Offering a variety of meeting spaces configured into lounges, smaller group settings, and spaced-out larger areas, will all help your team adapt to being back in office.

Providing seamless technology that will allow your team members to meet virtually with remote team members will enhance communication and increase productivity. Flexible hybrid meeting spaces will support your employees in a way that allows them to succeed at home and in the office.

If possible, provide space for your team to get some fresh air. Have a patio or outdoor space that needs updating? Consider providing a range of seating options outdoors: a lounge, meeting spaces, or solo spaces for your team to recharge. Forgo the barbeque and opt for furnishings that invite the team out at any time of day.

Incorporating natural light and biophilic elements indoors is equally important. Feeling boxed in without a view of the outdoors can feel stifling and inhibit creativity.

Overall, when you start to strategize the return to office, its important to think about space differently, providing a space your team can feel like a community and thrive in. Thinking critically about how much interaction contributes to the success of what each individual team member does will help you position your return-to-work strategy and apply solutions.

allSPACES can help to identify your teams needs, provide input on functional space planning and design a collaborative environment that respects comfort levels.


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