Stéphane Lafarge, Director Europe at Herman Miller, warns of the danger of creating “socio-spatial segregation” at work in a strict application and without reflection of protective measures. It calls for preserving the collaborative dimension of face-to-face work.
“Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting our lives, revealing our flaws and shattering our certainties. This health storm resonates like a detonator, but will it succeed in stimulating positive and lasting transformations in the world of workspaces? For contractors, interior architects, designers, planners and manufacturers of office furniture, the challenge is considerable. So let’s think and act in the distant horizon because man is a social animal!
The health safety of employees – with the implementation of strict protocols – remains the priority. But let’s stop reacting in the short term, through the emergence of barrier measures in the form of screens or partitions in tertiary spaces! Think flexibility and freedom, with the choice of moving to the office or telecommuting.
Spirit of freedom
To imagine that employees happy to have had a taste of back-pedaling telework is totally illusory. Just as it is unthinkable to go back to classic management methods leading to obsolete working methods. The backbone of our companies being human, its comfort and fulfillment remain the keystone of success. Regardless of where the employee works, the essential remains the expression of his commitment.
These weeks of confinement have brought out what some, in terms of the evolution of the relationship at work, have been trying to instill in us for years in France. These pioneers have observed – dumbfounded and satisfied – the democratization of teleworking, driven by communication technologies. Safe from cautious unions and managers, seeing their prerogatives escape them or their flocks moving away, necessity has ruled! And this, without any procrastination when it comes to learning and mastering multiple interactive platforms. Insurance constraints and legal rigors have vanished. The citizen / employee has led a simple fight: that of being empowered and therefore naturally invested.
Let’s design our future
What are we waiting for to streamline our decision-making procedures and systems? Teleworking must be the expression of membership and the office space must become the place for non-transposable activities as well as collective intelligence. The tertiary space must establish itself as the place of dynamic and collaborative work, of serendipity and agility, but certainly not as that of distance!
Setting up barrier screens all the time cannot be a sociological response in the medium / long term. It is opportunism that intoxicates the brains advocating isolation. Let’s not invent the era of socio-spatial segregation in office spaces! Let us advocate freedom of choice because we will come back to the office for one good reason: socialization.
The future must be written through shared and collaborative spaces. The individual office in tertiary spaces, whether open or closed, will certainly be replaced in favor of the multiplicity of convivial spaces. At the same time as this thirst for collaborative work, companies will have to invest in quality equipment in order to provide optimal support for teleworking employees.
Stupor and Trembling
As a manufacturer of office furniture, we could tremble at the heralded revolution and the behavioral changes it is expected to bring about. But let’s take a look at the recent speech by Mark Zuckerberg explaining his desire to put half of his employees into telework, within 5 to 10 years. In addition to his argument on virtual reality that can boost remote collaboration, let’s focus on the study conducted internally. This indicates that 50% of employees consider themselves more productive in teleworking, 20 to 40% say they are interested in working remotely on a permanent basis but also note that half of the employees would like to return to the office as soon as possible!
We feel before we think
At the crossroads of transitions, this directs us to the need to listen and adapt to the wishes of employees because, obviously, the desire to work face-to-face remains important. Physical contact and face-to-face relationship – without an interposed screen – generate incomparable, even irreplaceable, listening, attention, discernment and understanding. Body language – with its sensory interactions – is essential to group cohesion.
Why such a need?
Everyone, arriving at a place or entering a space, immediately perceives a well-being or, conversely, a negative charge. The importance of design then takes on its full meaning because well thought out and designed, a space brings a positive emotional charge. The same is true in office spaces, the layout of which speaks volumes about the company’s culture. With the health crisis over, employees will focus on one thing: the quest for emotional experiences. Hence the importance of redesigning open, intelligent, desirable, aesthetic and ergonomic office spaces. The demand for innovative and efficient furniture will not disappear, it will shift.
Reinventing workspaces is akin to a high-flying exercise, as the French remain Colbertists and the powers centralized. The road may be long and chaotic, but it is at the cost of daring, confidence and a change of paradigm that the relationship at work will evolve… for the well-being of employees and the survival of companies. ”
Cosm office chair range
About Herman Miller
Present in more than 100 countries, born in 1905 in Michigan (United States), Herman Miller is – today – part of the Herman Miller Group, an entity that oversees a family of 9 brands – including Colebrook Bosson Saunders, HAY, Maars Living Walls, Maharam, Naugthone – centered on a strategic approach to design, advocating advanced engineering and technologies.
Originally dedicated to home furniture, Herman Miller broadened his scope of creation in the 1960s to the fitting out of office spaces and tertiary buildings. 1960 also saw the creation of Herman Miller Research entity which initiated the first studies dedicated to work environments. In 2015, Herman Miller revived – in Europe – with design in the home by reissuing the classics of Ward Bennett.