The pandemic era work environment

By Peter Ellington, President and General Manager, Office Furniture Source

We are now 14 months into our “new normal.” The current status-quo is the pandemic era work environment. It’s an exciting time for the workplace because, in essence, the pandemic was an abrupt event that is forcing us to reshape not only where we work, but how:

  • How do we apply the benefits of how we worked in the last year and weave those into re-establishing what was lost by our time apart?  
  • How do we pivot towards workers' expectations for flexibility without losing the richness of in-person interaction and the compounding benefits of collaboration?  
  • How do we enhance wellness in our places of work for it to feel both welcoming and safe for our teams?

Communication, flexibility, and a focus on wellness will be key considerations in the workplace that compel teams to resume in person activity.

Communication has changed.

Pre-pandemic virtual meeting platforms were for the early adopters and large organizations – now it is commonplace. The efficiencies (and frustrations) that come with a quick virtual call are not only acceptable but normal. However, some things do get lost in translation and most businesses benefit with face-to-face interaction.  In my industry there’s a design phase, a highly visual and creative process where best results come from in-person collaborative engagements. While we can push certain things forward digitally, things like fabric texture and scale do not translate well virtually. We have been given the opportunity to establish best practices within our organizations to utilize varied communication models most effectively. Incorporating technology advances into our work processes can increase the ability to be flexible, which the team, and the client, have grown to expect.

Flexibility is expected.

Technology, plus the pandemic, has forced flexibility that employees had been craving for years. Even though our devices and connectivity have advanced over the years, flexibility in the workplace has remained stagnant. The pandemic swung the pendulum swiftly in the other direction and the expectation is flexibility will stay. This can mean hybrid work schedules (a portion of the week in person and time working from home). Team members will also seek flexibility on where they work when they’re in the office. Consider work environments that allow for more fluid movement around the office and the introduction of non-traditional workplace elements that are warm and inviting (think living room or kitchen table).

Wellness is incorporated. 

Regardless of where someone works – in the office, at home or a hybrid of the two – employers need to be cognizant of the trend towards greater awareness of employee wellness and wellbeing. Technology has resulted in being readily available at the ping of a cell phone, and the pandemic has further blurred the lines of work/life. Leaving the office does not mean leaving work. There are several pillars of wellness which together forms holistic wellness. Trending expectations in a holistic work environment include emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Many of these can be addressed with good communication and an established work culture.  

Yes, the pandemic has thrown us a challenge, but now is the time to see the possibility in how we can reshape the workplace and usher in a new era.

For more information, contact Peter Ellington at 513-531-0900 or pellington@officefurnituresource.com.

Office Furniture Source is a Goering Center Sponsor, and the Goering Center is sharing this content as part of its monthly newsletter, which features member and sponsor articles.

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.