Organizations across the country are rethinking what it means to go into a physical workspace and how they can support their employees. As traditional spaces and furniture continue to evolve, Debbie Rogers, Sales and Strategy Training – Furniture, Technology, Print and Promo at Staples Professional, shares her thoughts.
Q (Staples Professional): There’s been a lot of talk about spaces that can support a variety of workflows, such as solo, team and community. What has your team been hearing about this?
A (Rogers): Each organization is adjusting to what they might need as their workspaces change. So, while solo spaces will always be necessary, we are now seeing Team spaces come into play — spaces that are not necessarily formal, but support collaboration and ideation in smaller groups. Community spaces ensure we can get together in larger groups and rebuild our connections with our organizations. But there’s no cookie-cutter approach. If you’re in the process of rethinking your space, start by thinking about the way your business operates and how your associates want to work.
Q: Can community spaces aid in boosting company culture and creative thinking?
A: The workplace has always been a big part of company culture. With these spaces, you’ll want to think about how it can promote collaboration while providing your employees with the flexibility they need in their environment. This type of space may not work for your organization, but if it does, it can be a great opportunity to bring in elements of your company culture, natural elements or even lighting changes.
Q: As workspaces continue to evolve, there’s a lot of talk about safety – both physically and psychologically. Can you talk about what each looks like and how Staples Professional is helping clients address both?
A: A big part of going back to the office will be about giving people the ability to work where they feel safe and in their own style, whether that’s a solo or collaborative space. It will really be dependent on the types of spaces you feel work best for your team. With clients’ concerns in mind, our manufacturing partners spend a great amount of time developing and testing products that, in turn, we use to develop and create design solutions.
Q: While every organization has different needs, what are some of the changes you’ve been hearing about in physical workspaces?
A: Many organizations planning for hybrid work are focusing on spaces that bring people together and offer flexibility. While there will always be a need for heads-down work, the new purpose of the office will be to provide employees with a space where they can collaborate in person. Both Team and Community spaces will be an essential part of this.
As well, we are seeing a lot more biophilic design — a concept used in industrial design to connect people to nature in modern spaces. This can look like bringing in more light and nature, both in terms of colour and greenery, and incorporating sustainable materials like bamboo.
Q: In a Spotlight Virtual event hosted by Staples Canada, Jan Johnson, VP of Workplace Strategy at Allsteel, spoke about social cohesion (the chemistry of working relationships) and why it should also be considered when developing a workplace strategy. How can the furniture selected by an organization be used to promote social cohesion?
A: Furniture alone doesn’t create social cohesion, but space with furniture does. It’s about ensuring that organizations provide employees with a dedicated area where they can migrate their watercooler chat to. No one wants to sit at the edge of the desk. Creating team spaces doesn’t have to feel daunting, it’s just about understanding your people and their needs.