Creating a workplace design has always required design professionals to juggle multiple roles. From visionary to strategic planner to psychologist to logician, the workplace designer must integrate important and separate considerations to engineer sets of spaces that are appealing, functional, forward-thinking, economical, innovative, sustainable, and so on.
Wearing different hats is just part of the job for the workplace designer. But in 2023–as we collectively emerge from the pandemic–designers find a commercial marketplace that is a whole new landscape and requires a few more hats. So much has changed that the ability to juggle multiple roles well has become an essential component of the job. At PureAlchemy, we are very present to this dynamic.
What Has Shifted?
In the last couple of years, the ways that offices are used has changed, and drastically.
The pandemic opened different approaches to working. It spawned new possibilities and new philosophies about space usage, on site work, and the real viability of remote work. It elevated some values and diminished others.
In this environment, the workplace designer now more than ever must understand what clients need and want. The tricky part is that pandemic shifts have thrown some commercial clients onto a foggy field. They’re not sure of the best way forward in the new landscape.
The questions designers used to ask now must be more explorative. The questions still must encompass many different considerations, but now the questions must go deeper.
Questions About Office Purpose
During the pandemic, when droves of us retreated to our homes and set up comfortable workplaces there, we learned that remote work was not only possible but was very viable. Now that we can safely work in proximity again, some would prefer otherwise. Why trudge into an office when we can crank out our spreadsheets and reports from the couch and conduct staff meetings via Zoom?
Workplace designers, such as ours at PureAlchemy Design, must help clients think through what they want their offices to accomplish and provide. Should they serve as inspiration incubators? Collaboration sites? Places where company culture gets curated and transmitted?
And if it’s truly important for staff to work on site, what will the client do to make the office a place that draws employees back? Or entice new employees to come? What amenities or design features should offices provide that they didn’t before?
Questions About Space Usage
Post-pandemic, many companies don’t need as much office workspace as before because some of their employees continue to work from home. However, they might need more square footage for amenity offerings—the specialty areas that will draw employees back and keep them happy.
The workplace designer has to help clients identify how much space they need for amenity areas (hospitality, fitness, dining, etc.)—considerations that didn’t get as much focus in years past.
Now the designer must advise clients on the types of new spaces to include while still streamlining the overall footprint because fewer employees work onsite. That kind of advice comes from information drawn out through questions about space usage. Yes, designers have always had to drill down about space usage but today it’s more nuanced and more complicated.
Questions About Work Styles & Operational Structures
How do company members interact with each other? How do they collaborate, produce, Lead, and Inspire?
Are the dynamics the same as they’ve always been or have they changed in the last couple of years? How do the changes impact the spaces where people work? How do they impact the design requirements for those spaces?
If operational structures are such that employees need to work onsite, how will people be attracted back? Or how will they remain content once they’re back?
The designer must ask all these questions of the client. And if the client can’t answer every question, the designer’s role is to guide, draw out, and suggest. The answers will inform the design.
PureAlchemy’s Workplace Designers Wear Different Hats to Ask the Right Questions
PureAlchemy Design’s workplace designers are attuned to the marketplace shifts that occurred during and after the pandemic. We’ve been in the trenches with clients who’ve had to face huge changes.
Throughout, we’ve embraced the reality that we must wear even more hats than we used to, and while wearing those hats, we need a deeper understanding of how our clients CAN work, not simply how they have always worked to design what they need in a post-pandemic landscape.
As we ask the questions to gain clear pictures of our clients’ unique workplace dynamics, we create the spaces they need adjusted for today’s demands. And in that, we continue doing what we’ve always done: transforming ordinary spaces into energized and inspired workspaces and branded environments.