I love a face-to-face meeting. I process information more holistically in these settings – body language, verbal cues, visible reactions in the room. While NELSON works from home during the COVID crisis, Zoom and Skype have been indispensable in filling the face-to-face void between colleagues.
Our digital era has given rise to the concept of being “alone together” – solitary but connected. Right now, millions of us are “home together” and looking for ways to maintain the genuine human connections that keep a workplace humming.
In lieu of water cooler chats, we share images of our homes, our pets, our families, and our unique or quirky work settings. We schedule virtual happy hours. We check in more often.
Being “home together” has reinforced the need for authentic, human-to-human connection at work. Trust, empathy, and communication between people form the foundation of the most successful teams.
As we rely on WiFi and video chat to keep our social ties alive, I think workers may return to office environments in a post-crisis era with a different attitude – an even greater desire for meaningful connections, and a new appreciation for the physical space that enables them.
How will our Zoom-connected virtual offices influence the “IRL” workspaces we return to?
Bringing the Home-self to Work
Working from our kitchen tables in slippers, we’re entering a new era of “business casual.” It’s allowed us to mix the workplace and the home space and relate to our colleagues on a more relaxed level. We can bring this sense of authenticity to the physical workplace too. Elements like employee walls located in central gathering areas allow people to share photos and items from their personal lives, capturing the same new closeness and informality we are experiencing in Zoom life.
Working from home can offer more flexibility in setting – we are fully free to change rooms or positions throughout the day. Offices should have the same flexibility. Following the principles of the activity-based workplace, creating a variety of settings at work to support mobility and choice can foster the same sense of freedom as home.
Meeting Spaces and Video Rooms
Change your Zoom background yet? The ability to use a branded background is a useful tool for representing your company to clients or other partners. We can translate this to the physical space by branding smaller video-enabled rooms in the office.
Loosen up densification
With more space to spread out at home, expanding the typical desk surface in the office may be in order. Is having a bigger desk counterintuitive to connection? Not at all. Aside from the hygienic benefits of increasing social distance for everyday tasks, it allows more individual space for changing use throughout the day, from heads-down work to spontaneous meetings with colleagues.
It’s heartening to see human connections flourish despite physical distance. If we embrace the tools and techniques we’re adapting now for the digital realm, we can use them to enrich our offices once we return.
Nicole Zack, Senior Designer
Nicole Zack is a skilled interior designer with a decade of experience in design, architecture, and urban planning. Based out of NELSON’s Chicago office, Nicole has worked on a wide range of projects across the workplace practice including Ferrara Candy Company’s downtown Chicago headquarters located in the city’s historic Old Post Office. Nicole is AIA and NCARB certified, and a LEED Green Associate. She is seasoned in traditional corporate office design and tech office spaces.