Office Talk : Workplace learnings from the Pandemic

The end of our series talking to workplace professionals about the effects of 2020 on our working life looks at the lessons learned from dealing with the global pandemic.

As we wrap up our ‘Office Talk’ series, the conversation turns to what insights we can take from over the past 6 months. We have explored the changes which have occurred to peoples working lives, how working from home has brought with it a whole new world of responsibilities and frameworks, and last week we asked the question what an attractive workplace of the future will look like.


This week we ask our workplace experts to explore what lessons both individuals and companies should have learned from the pandemic, and how this can improve peoples working lives now, and put them in good stead for any future turbulence.


One of the most important topics to come up repeatedly in our correspondence has been the idea of flexibility. Almost universally our experts pointed out that those who were able to adapt to the situation were able to operate more efficiently.


Tiril Bamberg, Physiotherapist, Avonova: “Digital solutions that were planned for years to come were completed in a very short time, which shows it is possible to do things quickly... I experienced within our company and with many of our customers that people became creative, inventive, solution-focused when there was no particular right answer, but the situation required that we act.”


Not everyone was in the position to adapt so quickly and had to play catch up. A major learning, therefore, is that flexibility is paramount and creating a working environment that is not so rigid will offer significant advantages if similar circumstances arise in the future.


Mustafa Afsaroglu, Co-Founder, Taner's Sons Design Studio: “Increase flexibility of employee’s workstyles, give them more choice and control over how they get their work done.”


Marco Checci, Partner & Interior Architect, Studio Stockholm: “Have a flexible digital solution that quickly enables you to change. Have processes ready so that employees know what to do, how to do it and what is expected of them. See the possibilities of working more flexibly.”

two green RH Mereo chairs in a light office

This flexibility is not only limited to working practices but can be applied to almost any aspect of a company, as highlighted by Louise Lindmark, Project Manager at FirstOffice:


“As an employer, one should invest in flexibility, flexibility and again flexibility. I believe that companies will increasingly try to find office solutions that are more adaptable, if it then results in several smaller office units (hubs) with short agreements where you can easily terminate space or increased opportunity to work from home to reduce on the number of workplaces in the office or both and will appear in the future.”


Mustafa: “Use real estate wisely, make it a space people want to be at rather than where they have to go to... Make every square meter count!”


As well as learning about how to operate more flexibly, 2020 has been a breakout year for video calls. Although by no means a new concept, the complete reliance on video calls for almost every company - even for live television broadcasts - has meant nearly everybody has had to come to grips with the technology, and the realisation that they are an effective solution may have surprised some.


One widespread belief is that these learnings will translate into reduced travel, which results in lower business costs and a lower impact on the environment, whilst allowing employees to be more productive during saved travel time.


Johanna Munch, Architect, Strategisk Arkitektur: “Certainly (we will see) a lot of reduced travel, less paper use, more efficient meetings (which starts on time).”


Helen Parton, Workplace design journalist and Co-author of Total Office Design: “Virtual meetings are very good for some kind of gatherings such as presentations or other downloads of information and it also cuts down on unnecessary small talk so I think they will be much more prevalent than pre-Covid.”


Jane Ahlin, Ergonomist: “We will see that many companies and individuals have grown and developed when it comes to using digital media. You see the benefits of this (time, money, and the environment).”

3 people talking together at coworking office cowoki cowork in cologne

All of these thoughts reflect the necessary changes businesses and individuals have had to make in order to survive, and focus very much on day-to-day productivity in our roles as workers.  One final lesson our correspondents are hopeful that has been learned is that whilst we are able to survive with these measures, as humans, we still require person-to-person interaction in order to thrive.


Niklas Madsen, Founder, Superlab: “We hope that more companies review their work culture and how the physical workplace is used. That you actually think about what you want out of the workplace. Do I want a workplace with employees who quietly look into their computer 8 hours a day or do I want a vibrant workplace with creative discussions and spontaneous meetings that lead to innovative times and solutions. If you want option two. Should you really prepare for option 1?”


Helen: “As people, we’ve all learned we’re more adaptable than we thought we were and embraced others’ ways of doing things which hopefully is a strength we’ll carry forward into the post-Covid world. Without sounding too mawkish, we’ve all learned to appreciate each other a bit more whether that’s being grateful for a FaceTime chat in the strictest part of lockdown, having a chat over the fence with a neighbour or a socially distanced glass of wine in the park as the lockdown has eased.”


If you’d like to hear more from our experts on the subjects covered in this series, you can hear from Superlab’s Niklas Madsen in a recent digital design talk we hosted exploring the future of workplace design. Ergonomist Kirsty Angerer will also be guest writing on Flokk Focus in the coming weeks, sharing advice on how to create the perfect working from home environment.


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A special thank you to each and every one of our workplace correspondents, who shared their insight and knowledge throughout this series. They are as follows:


Mustafa Afsaroglu, Co-Founder, Taner's Sons Design Studio 

Jane Ahlin, Ergonomist

Kirsty Angerer, Ergonomist, The Travelling Ergonomist

Tiril Bamberg, Physiotherapist, Avonova

Marco Checchi, Partner & Interior Architect, Studio Stockholm

Maja Domeij, Ergonomist, Previa

Judith Dorlandt, Senior Consultant,  Service & Workplace Design, Hospitality Group

Wivian Eidsaunet, Partner, Spectrum Arkiteker 

Louise Lindmark, Project Manager, FirstOffice

Niklas Madsen, Founder, Superlab

Johanna Munck, Vice Director, Strategisk Arkitektur

Helen Parton, Workplace design journalist and Co-author of Total Office Design

Karin Ståhl, CEO & Workplace strategist, GoToWork

Helen Parton, Workplace design journalist and Co-author of Total Office Design

Niklas Madsen, Founder, Superlab

Judith Dorlandt, Senior Consultant,  Service & Workplace Design, Hospitality Group


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