Prior to 2020, we had been seeing changes in how office space was being configured and utilized. Conversations around well-being, the environment, inclusivity, employee engagement, amenities, and hot seating influenced positive change for employees. But it took a global pandemic to test what was truly possible.
Prior to the pandemic, a Gallup study found 54% of office employees requested to work remotely, and after the pandemic, 98% had a choice of where and when to work. It’s no surprise a study by McKinsey found 80% reported they enjoyed working from home, 41% say they are more productive than before, and 28% say they are just as productive. But according to a Harris Poll, 72% say they are eager to get back to the office, and specifically, 52% said it was because of in-person work and social collaboration opportunities.
As working from home and flex scheduling continues, how may the office change in the future?
Mike Phelps, of BisNow, wrote, “In the future, companies may want less space, but they will want better space. Office space will need to seamlessly bring together those working in the building and those working from home.” But virtual technology and global scheduling may not be enough. The need to work in-person read body language, and make direct eye contact are important for building relationships. Therefore, there will still be a workplace, furniture, ergonomic essentials, durable finishes, and special amenities. Of key importance will be to plan around the soft side of peoples’ innate desire to be together with health and safety in mind.
Now is the perfect opportunity to rethink our workspaces. Employees who feel comfortable, confident, and connected are most effective. Survey your employees about how a workspace makes them feel. And more importantly, use answers to create a workspace, which can address key ingredients such as safety, comfort, efficiency, integration, and collaboration.
The Human Needs Matrix concept
This may seem easier said than done. However, Hank Menke, president of OFS Brands said, “What you make people feel is as important as what you make.” Humans have needs and preferences for their workspace. The statistics show us we won’t be able to ignore his theory just because people like flex scheduling and working from home. We know home can’t meet all workspace needs.
At times, it can be difficult to describe or define what employees want or need because they are unsure of themselves. Likely, virtual and in-person opportunities will be needed. And, according to Menke’s proprietary Human Needs Matrix concept, the office of the future will have workspaces which meet these four fundamental human needs.
The connection lies at the very heart of what makes us human. These work environments are where you come to know and be known - to belong. Places to connect create the context for unexpected conversations and organic community. We believe people are better together, and the connection brings us together.
The right spaces have the power to ignite discovery. We believe discovery is a fundamental human need. Places inspire us to discover, help us imagine new ideas, information, and ways of thinking, resulting in changing the way we approach our lives and work.
Whether you are alone or alongside others, places to focus are where things get done. Focus results in bringing people, ideas, and information together in a “zone-like” atmosphere.
Balance matters. Catching your breath, sharing a reflective moment, or brainstorming ideas all need space, which provides energy. Restoration can be both active and passive, involve processing or planning, or simply recharging your physical, mental, and emotional batteries.
Quarantine and social distancing have imposed tremendous effects on our work culture. And yet, human nature still draws us together while meaning and purpose create strong and lasting bonds. Collaboration yields greater success. As a result, workers feel engaged and fulfilled. The well-being of oneself and the business requires the office to be more than just a place to meet and do work. What the future brings is a fundamental need for human-centered workspaces, focusing on both function and wellness.

As we manage the global pandemic, learn about Coakley Brothers and Brothers Interiors products and services to help support your employees’ comfort and health while working in your office, health care, or educational space. Contact them at: or 414-278-7060.