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Back to work

September 24, 2020 by Erin Brand

As everyone starts to return to their offices, it’s been fascinating to contemplate how the workplace will change in a post-lockdown world. When we left our studio abruptly back in mid-March, even though we initially thought we were only going to be away for two weeks, we knew that coming back wouldn’t be the same.  

Little did we know how much it would change going on 6 months later – and change, and change, and change again. Writing (and re-writing) COVID-19 guidelines for clients, designing signage, and producing branded face masks are part of our new reality. And even though our city is in phase 3 and we’re technically allowed back in our studio, an official return to our space feels uncertain. 

Our most recent collaboration with our friends at Fig40 involved creating a microsite for contract furniture manufacturers that proposed a range of ideas and possibilities to address a changing workplace in a COVID-19 world. We researched trends and opportunities and then looked at the Fig40 archive to determine how various products could be rethought to address critical themes: the need to collaborate while maintaining physical distance, working from home, workplace cleanability, and mitigating psychological impacts. 

Applying these learnings to our own space has been a fascinating experiment in flexibility. Fortunately, we have ample room to play with – and our modern design sensibility is ideally suited to minimize dirt traps, so keeping surfaces clean shouldn’t be an issue. But it will take a lot of creative “bubbling” to make our boardroom a truly functional brainstorm space again. 

As Fig40 has predicted, and our research demonstrated, we find ourselves focusing more on ensuring our team’s personal home spaces are functioning optimally. This is a struggle for many of us who live in smaller condos where a big task chair isn’t going to work aesthetically at a dining room table. (Fortunately, Fig40 has designed several, highly comfortable solutions that work in the living room just as well as they would in the boardroom.)

Fundamentally, that’s the biggest challenge in navigating this new world of work. We can have all the technology tools at our disposal to work remotely. But how do we stay inspired every day? How do we keep our heads and hearts in the game? 

It’s been hard, but thankfully, we’re slowly shaking off our Zoom fatigue by shifting back in-person creative sessions in small groups in the studio or outside in patio sessions and walks to the park picnics. (Another product line explored by Fig40 makes it easy to inject biomimicry principles in the workspace to help offset mental health issues when being stuck inside.)  

But ultimately, even though many of us are itching to return to “normal,” until we know what normal looks like, flexibility will be a pillar in our return to studio strategy. Fun fact, we’ve adapted our COVID-19 guidelines within our own BrandOps guide four times already – and we know that will only continue. 

 


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