Spec Finish

www.thefis.org 21 design, long-term durability, low energy consumption and low operational carbon, new construction that replaces poorly performing building stock will have a beneficial long- term environmental impact. We would love for every client (and Government) to see the importance of this as well. I look forward to seeing how the Government responds to the growing support for a new Approved Document Part Z ( www.part-z.uk ).” Q: With so many opinions on the subject of return to work for those who could work from home, what is your thinking when planning new or reconfiguring spaces for your clients? A: “Communication, in its many various ways, is fundamental. As England started to come out of all formal lockdown regulations, ‘personal choice’ took centre stage. This is problematic, as my view on right and wrong will likely be subtly different to yours. It will be the same for our client’s workforce – unless workplace rules are clearly defined, there may be opportunities for dissatisfaction amongst the staff, leading people to stay away and continue to work from home. Therefore, employers need to clearly communicate their plans to encourage staff back, and when there, provide signage reinforcing protocols and behaviours in language that strikes the right balance between clarity, while not appearing condescending. “For the foreseeable future, it’s likely that employers will still have at least some staff working from home. Again, employers and teams within the company, will need to ensure communication is consistent. Last minute huddles or gatherings in the office will either need to include a virtual element for those working from home or be followed up with a formal update. “Internal team meetings and meetings involving outside parties who would previously have travelled to one location for the meeting, will need good video conferencing capabilities. Therefore lighting, tech, acoustics and varieties of space will all need to be reviewed to ensure the teams can communicate properly.” Q: Flexibility has always been a key factor in interior design; will this move higher up the agenda now? A: “The impact of the pandemic has shown that the future is a very difficult thing to predict. I see an increasing focus on the flexibility of a building’s infrastructure – the mechanical systems, the reconfigurability of the lighting control, Wi-Fi coverage etc – all will affect the client’s ability to make their real estate respond to changing demands in space and amenities.” Q: UK has tended to pack more people into the office than other parts of Europe. Do you think companies taking less office space is inevitable or will space be redeployed in a more creative way? A: “It will take time to get office workforce numbers back to pre-pandemic figures; there is also a growing feeling this may never happen. However, the more progressive clients, who consider value over cost, staff attraction and retention over productivity alone, and who think about their staff when making business decisions, are not reducing space but deploying it in different ways. “For some employees there are obvious benefits in working from home (savings on commuting costs and time being only one part of it). Some employees may also have a home environment that allows productive working from home. Clients therefore need to make the office a key destination to draw them back – great collaborative spaces and amenities, opportunities for learning and social interaction, better access to management and so on. As people may be uncomfortable if all social distancing indoors is removed, space will still be needed – but perhaps being used in a different way, at least in the short term. “Workplaces in the future will need to offer more than adjustable desking and a great tea point – it will need collaborative environments, fluid locations, access to outdoors, proximity to food and drinks. These healthy, enjoyable experiences will drive talent attraction, retention and wellbeing.” Q: What impact does ‘hybrid working’ have on the new intake of people stating their careers, and what’s the best way of managing space effectively to ensure we don’t miss out on mentoring potential and serendipitous office interactions that occur when bringing people together? A: “We should never under-estimate the negative impact that working from home has had on certain employees. In my experience, the younger workforce has tended to find this time incredibly tough. Few have physically or acoustically private space to work, many are competing for Wi-Fi with a number of flatmates, no green space to break away to, ergonomically poor furniture – all these factors have made the past 18 months even harder. Another thing that cannot be underestimated is the lack of social and professional interaction, specifically with management, that staff in the early stages of their career really benefit from. “In conclusion, a concerted effort will need to be made to ensure employees feel they still have access to management, even when either party is working from home. I can see a need for management to be back in the office more frequently as quickly as possible, in order for other members of staff to have access to themwhenever needed.” www.gensler.com Workplaces in the future will need to offer more collaborative environments, fluid locations, access to outdoors and proximity to food and drink Interview COVER STORY

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