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WorkSpace Wednesday: Rethinking Work (and Spaces) in 2021


A businessman holding a light bulb
Image: ngad -
As 2020 slowly recedes in the rearview mirror, many enterprise leaders are looking to the new year, taking lessons learned and applying them to the challenges that lay ahead. At the heart of these challenges will be the workplace, both virtual and physical spaces, and how they might look post-pandemic.
Almost a full year ago, No Jitter launched its sister site, WorkSpace Connect, to bring together IT, HR, and real estate/facilities professionals to discuss the future of work and how to design a connected workplace. At the time of the website launch, COVID-19 had just come ashore to the U.S., and no one yet realized that collaboration-centric huddle rooms and shared workspaces were soon to become worrisome. A month later, as the pandemic took hold, WorkSpace Connect had its first COVID-19-/remote-working-related article, and as they say, the rest is history.
Posts on COVID-19-safe offices and how to make the best of the work-from-home (WFH) experience saw the most interest on WorkSpace Connect, as my colleague Beth Schultz pointed out in a recap of 2020’s top 10 articles. Top of the list is a May article, “Teleworking in Troubled Times,” in which Schultz explored the lasting impacts of the pandemic with Melissa Marsh, founder and executive director of PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and real estate strategy firm. The article highlights how positive out-of-office experiences will leave a lasting impression on the workplace. The “resimercial” workplace trend of creating soft-feeling spaces that have a homelike quality was in vogue before the pandemic but might see a boost post-pandemic, Marsh said.
But as workers return to the office, they aren’t only going to want to cozy up in their cubicle (or dedicated workspace), they’ll want to be sure that they feel safe, which is the focus of the second most-read story, “Rethinking Office Space for Lower Density.” Social distancing became the first line of defense in the fight against COVID-19, and many enterprises were quick to act on this requirement, busting out office plans and working alongside HR and facilities/real estate professionals to ensure the safest working condition, Marsh explained.
To round out the top three articles, the future of work went outdoors. My colleague Dana Casielles explored the world of smart remote offices from DEN and Method Homes. Designed as an enterprise-ready unit, these smart, remote offices serve as the work equivalent to the she-shed or mancave, including physical and digital security, dedicated video call display, surround sound, lighting, and an HVAC system. The feasibility of a work “DEN” is up for debate, but it does show the breadth of how people are reimagining work.
While preparing for pandemic and post-pandemic workstyles were top of mind for many WorkSpace Connect readers, that wasn’t their only concern. Towards the middle of the list are two articles about mindful office design (one on doing away with distraction and another on addressing mental health and neurodiversity) and an article on returning to the office for the sake of collaboration. Touching on slightly different aspects of the work environment, these articles all relate to improving the employee experience in one way or another.
And the topic of the employee experience seems ripe for the new year, alongside the return to the office, as discussed in this recent No Jitter post. A year of remote working has left many workers feeling burnout, especially Millennials, and those still working in an office tend to have higher enjoyment and less stress, as I shared in my recent WorkSpace Connect post, “Burnout Bust: Making Employee Experience a 2021 Priority.” The case for enhancing the employee experience has never been greater, so it’s time to execute.