Many organizations have made layoffs, downsizing, and furlough decisions in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s likely, therefore, that a significant amount of office real estate may be vacant by the time businesses recall staff and re-open for business. Office hoteling, the sharing, and joint-use of existing workspace is the key to making efficient and cost-effective use of existing commercial real-estate. However, when planning a back to work strategy, how does one meet the psychological needs of returning employees and business guests?
The answer: Universal Design.
If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught business leaders, it’s the fact that their employees are very resilient. The efficient transition into the work-from-home model has demonstrated that, above all, human resources is likely the most precious asset in any business. As such, any back-to-work strategy must put employees’ interest in front and center.
And no other interest except the psychological needs of returning staff. Whether they return to business as usual, or (more likely) a revamped office with a hoteling model, they must feel safe and welcomed in order to be productive. And the best way to make them feel psychologically at ease is to make use of universal design principles when creating your hoteling environment.
So, what is Universal design, and how can businesses apply those principles to making hoteling office space more welcoming, safe and secure? Well, the concept of universal design comes from The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD), an organization established in January 2007 by the National Disability Authority (NDA) under the Disability Act 2005. So, what are the central principles of such a design? It is to design and construct:
“…an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size or disability”
Clearly, the CEUD only provides broad guidelines for organizations to follow. How each organization interprets those guidelines and then translates them into concrete plans, is up to the individual businesses’ management teams. But one thing is clear: If you want your returning workforce to feel psychologically stress-free and welcomed, it’s vital that you show it by concrete action in your workspace design.
Here are some practical stems that businesses can take to make their hoteling workspaces psychological safe havens for returning staff:
– Consider implementing Room Scheduling software, so returning staff may feel secure in the knowledge that they already have a safe space reserved for when they do return to the office
– Use Social Distancing Management Beacons across the hoteling workspace, so staff may have touch-free, contact-less ability to check-in/out of their hoteling workstations
– Make Room Display Touchscreens mandatory on all communal and mass-gathering space, such as conference rooms and meeting spaces, so returning employees may automate the reservation process or check on availability status either remotely or from a distance
Implementing these three steps will go a long way in helping workers feel safe and secure when they return to work. And when staff feels psychologically safe, they typically tend to perform at their best!