Opinion|Designing a happier post-pandemic workplace

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Working from home has brought everyone their own unique challenges, with the pandemic helping many revaluate where and how we work. 

Millions switched from ergonomic offices to working from their sofas, their dining table, or their beds. Now, as vaccinations begin to roll out in the region, we have the opportunity to redesign our offices to not only enable greater productivity, but to engender happiness.

It is clear that happiness is linked to strong commercial success. Happier employees are more motivated. They commit more time to tasks and stay with their employer for longer. However, 87% of employees globally feel disengaged from their work, with 84% also feeling stressed by their work Workplaces need to help employees feel motivated, engaged, and committed to their profession.

To understand what a happy workplace can look like, we partnered with leading Egyptian property developer, DMG Mountain View, and global culture coach Delivering Happiness, to create a completely unique system where happiness is the basis of design.  

At the heart of our ‘Happiness By Design’ methodology is the Happiness Ecosystem Index, with three key goals: defining the components of happiness; creating a system to measure happiness; and defining actionable items to design for happiness.

Our five pillars of Meaning, Vitality, Freedom, Engagement, and Delight helped us to design for how employees feel, how they collaborate and socialise and the flexibility they seek to make an office space their own. 

We also felt that there are important lessons to be learned from the pandemic in designing the office of the future. What role will the office play in our post-pandemic societies? 

With so many now used to working from home, employers need to be prepared that ‘business as usual’ is unlikely to resume any time soon. Following the pandemic, how will each of us be using physical office space?

As our work and home lives blend, the design of offices and homes will blur too. The office of the future will be more about comradery and connection, and less about accountability. 

Offices foster socialisation, which makes for a better creative environment and a more agile and innovative business. If office space is used to enable creative thinking, then design can help promote that purpose. 

We are envisioning really innovative areas for collaboration, furnished with a combination of analogue brainstorming components combined with new digital tools to spur virtual connectivity. We also clearly see the value employees place on socialisation, that all-important personal connection, and are taking cues from clubs, restaurants and residential design to make offices feel more like a blend of business and fun. 

Casual kitchens, social hubs and outdoor spaces help employees to connect, catch-up, and meaningfully engage with one another. 

The ‘office’ no longer refers simply to a physical place with four walls. Now, we envision the office as more of a concept than a space. We call it ‘Work From Anywhere’, a living room, a park, a café, or inside a company’s headquarters. 

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic fundamentally challenged the very idea of what an office is, and I would say for the better. Offices no longer are a place for dreary work, but rather to foster simple, human interaction, to act as the cultural hub of a company. 

What can an employer do practically to enable happy employees? Companies that adopt flexible approaches to work will care more about what employees produce, and less about where they produce it. And current furniture design trends offer changeable options that allow for choice in a person’s workspace as well as flexible room arrangements. 

Employees can choose to work in a solo pod, in a flexible hub, in a team room or even fully-connected from an outdoor studio space. Having furniture that fosters creative collaboration, such as a comfy sofa or a relaxing armchair, can encourage the workplace socialisation we have missed during the pandemic.

Designing a happy office also requires us to remember key facts about the human psyche. We have an innate love of nature, so from biophilic design to a simple potted plant, natural elements make an office feel happier. Bright pops of colour and pattern can spark joy by using them in unexpected ways, and calming contemporary neutrals, such as a contemplative blue-green teal, can affect well-being.  

We currently stand at a unique moment in time as we can now see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. As employees across the region return to their workplace, employers must use space around them to the best possible use. 

That means ensuring collaboration spaces enable creative and communal interactions. That home working solutions enable productive and impactful work. That the post-pandemic office is calibrated to provide employees with purpose, with freedom, with delight – and with happiness.

Katie Sprague, Principal at CallisonRTKL (CRTKL)

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Source: egyptianstreets