Emma May Morley, the founder of workspace design consultancy Trifle*, reflects on homeworking, the new office and our work-from-anywhere future
I have spent the last 12 years of my life dedicated to making work life better for my clients by creating inspiring workspaces for businesses. In recent years (pre-pandemic), we noticed a distinct move towards office design becoming a ‘numbers game’, the challenge of fitting more people into less space had become a regular feature of the brief.
Despite our determination to stay true to our mission of focusing on the human requirements of these spaces, more often than not we were tasked with cramming in more people/rooms/requirements than we felt comfortable with.
In all my years of workspace design, this last one has been the most challenging but it has also been the most fascinating. We are yet to see the rewards of the collective remote-work-life experiment we have all been participating in, but it has already created some interesting new insights into how we work and how we want to work.
We needed a break from the habitual work-life rhythm we’d all become accustomed to. They say it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit; we have had somewhere in the region of 308 (to date) away from our offices and for many, the work life rhythm has shifted now. How can we go back to how it was before? Returning to a strictly timetabled daily commute to the office, to be sat at the same desk from 9am-5pm could feel as alien as smoking in a meeting!
At Trifle* we have always believed (and long argued in meeting rooms across London) that working lives require more flexibility because modern life is not reflected in the rigidity of 9-5. Life is complex, it is unpredictable and it has a way of messing up the best laid plans. In the words of Bruce Daisley (ex-Twitter, now author/speaker and ‘Eat Sleep Work Repeat’ podcaster), “In years to come we will look back at the 9-5 and say what on earth were we thinking?”
The current situation is extraordinarily challenging for so many, but we are hopeful that the new hybrid norm will see a more flexible approach to how and where we work. This creates a multitude of opportunities and challenges, for business owners, HR, facilities teams and workspace designers. Having multiple options of work ‘places’ will allow us all to have a more nomadic and agile approach when it comes to workspace.
The space we call home, has had to adapt to become the primary workspace for many this last year. Homeworking is here to stay and largely needs to be improved, if it is no longer a temporary ‘fix’, then working from a stool at the kitchen table just won’t cut it. There are some easy ways that the home working experience can be improved including:
- Protecting your posture is critical and requires only two main investments – a decent chair plus using a laptop stand / monitor to raise your screen to eye level are both key.
- Considering light and using a variety of sources and levels for different times of day.
- Creating a boundary between home and work could be as simple as putting everything in a box at the end of the day. Also consider creating a mini commute by taking a walk at either end of the day to help clear your head and stretch out tight muscles.
The new ‘office’
The opportunity for rethinking workspaces and genuinely putting people at the heart of design decisions is right here, right now. Multipurpose spaces will require a less rigid, less fixed and less desk heavy approach. The ratio of shared to solo occupied spaces will be flipped and the requirements of spaces to facilitate collaboration and learning will take priority. The Trifle* team has long championed a resimmercial approach to offices and we can see that becoming the norm as wellbeing, health and comfort take centre stage. Will these spaces be called ‘offices’ in the future or will that term be phased out to be replaced by a work ‘club’ or ‘hub’ more similar in concept and design to coworking spaces?
The digital space
Zoom was launched 10 years ago but only boomed in the last 12 months! There are of course many digital organisational, communication and productivity platforms from Microsoft, Google and others readily available. Where there may have been a reluctance to embrace these tools before, the shake up of a global pandemic forced us to universally put them to the test. It will be fascinating to watch the technological developments over the coming months and years that further enhance our online working experience and how they can make us more effective, more collaborative and more creative.
Post pandemic, we expect to see a rise in localised co-work hubs outside city centres, in both rural and smaller urban locations. With club type memberships, we envision you will be able to choose to work there for a few hours, a day or longer and they may come to incorporate health, fitness and wellbeing as well as food or even retail – making them an attractive offering for workers by providing a change of scene and positive experience within our local communities.
Work from…. the world?
When we can work from anywhere, will we take that opportunity once travel routes reopen? Recruiters are already exploring global opportunities for talent. More extreme than not having a fixed desk will we be able to work from any country? Or will we take fewer but longer trips that allow us to work and explore the wider world?
If we are recruiting from a wider global talent pool then the virtual workspace could potentially become more diverse than ever before. Whilst we continue to wrestle with the challenges of a global pandemic and recession, we can a least look ahead to some positive and interesting times ahead for the working world that will see a new style of work life and increased flexibility for many.
Images by trifle*, Clare Wade, HomeWork and Exmouth House