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The Space Between…

Agile Approaches to Overcoming Today’s Workspace Planning Paradox

Posted by Kai Thompson  |  September 1, 2020

Preface

We are in a situation that none have faced in our lifetime. Members of the commercial real estate industry—those who manage workplaces and consumer spaces, as well as tenants and landlords—are all in a place where weighty near- and long-term decisions must be made. In the face of the current pandemic, many often find themselves having to doing so in the absence of critical information about what the “right” thing to do is. As queried in an age-old public health mantra, we must collectively ask ourselves: ”What do we KNOW? What do we THINK? What can we PROVE? And what do we DO?”

The Space Between conjures ideas of the unknown… the space between ideas, between answers, and how can we find strength in surrendering. Accepting living in the space between knowing how working in the office used to be and how we might work in the office in the future.”

Siri Nelson

Splice Project Manager

The idea of space optimization is shifting. Rather than just maximizing the capacity of every square inch, our focus as a society must now widen to include the safeguarding of our greatest asset—each other. The path ahead requires that we seek the true meaning of sustainability and efficiency. What does it look like to be good stewards of our resources while remaining cognizant of the impacts our actions have on the overall health and wellbeing of the very people who keep our economy going?

In order to better understand where we are and lay the framework for where we intend to go, we must look at how we got here and hold fast to the lessons learned.

1. What Was

Once the cold calculated jargon of operational efficiency translated our business and people into quotas, space requirements, and maintenance costs.  We have exhausted multiple workspace configurations—be it cubicles, benching, open layouts, or free address—that essentiality center around getting as many people into one space as possible. Ultimately saving money came before health of the employees. At the time the health of the company was not directly tied to the physical health of the employees. It was clear that our concept of workspace needed an overhaul, however we continued onward with a flawed system—applying band-aid fixes as we went. In the absence of any substantial challenges, we were lulled into a false sense of confidence, believing that what was could continue to be. And then along comes the challenge… COVID-19. A literal shock to the system.

2. What Now?

Our relationship with space is changing in leaps and bounds. We’ve come to realize that the environment in which people work matters. As a result, many of the forward-thinking initiatives that have lingered on the periphery are now in full focus (i.e. Healthy Buildings), while others that have garnered high levels of recognition are finding ways to pivot (i.e. the U.S. Green Building Council). We must consider the implementation of important safety measures alongside practical application, building confidence in the safe return to work without negatively impacting the emotional and psychological wellbeing of the very people we’re striving to protect. As a society we are now charged with simultaneously safeguarding the investments we’ve already made in our workforce while overhauling the hard assets that create the very framework in which they are intended to thrive.

3. What’s Next?

COVID-19 has created the impetus for our sector to change. Previously, resistance to change fueled by fear and anxiety, prevented us from making necessary course correcting adjustments.  To continue in similar fashion is to usher the sector back into a broken system. We should learn from challenges of COVID-19 and resist the urge to return to a system that does not work. What’s next, is growing from this challenge. When we get the opportunity to start over, we should take it, and begin again from a more informed place than we had previously. The sector needs new habits, and habits take a minimum of 3 weeks to form. Essentially, the future is now. What’s next is focusing on what’s now. What’s next is focusing on optimizing the health of your organization, which includes buildings, employees, and the subsequent space between, because when you optimize health, your business wins too.

Here to Help You Succeed

Is your organization confidently prepared to reopen or expand the occupancy of its space(s)? Have you established sustainable protocols to protect the H+S of your tenants and/or employees? Need help deciding what your next “right” thing to do is? Please get in touch!

We’d love to discuss how Splice can help you bring your company’s vision to life.

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