Thought Leadership Series: COVID-19 and The Changing Workplace

As companies begin contemplating the transition back to work, we asked industry leaders their thoughts on how COVID-19 will impact the workplace.

One thing that has become apparent is that the workplace will need to adapt to meet the changing needs of employees. See what these industry leaders had to say about the future of the workplace in the wake of COVID-19.


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"Major life events change our perspectives, question our priorities, and often point us in new directions. The COVID-19 pandemic will bring different priorities to questions on workplace design. Establishing separations and distancing seems reactionary, temporary. Adaptability will be ever more important as we study our environments. Change won’t be instant.”

- Brett Polich, AIA, EWP Architects, Principal


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"The first reaction for many was to retreat to old workplace habits, but we at HOK believe we have a unique opportunity to move forward. Enabling physical distancing does not have to equal social isolation. We can design spaces that bring us together while keeping us apart. We can emerge from this challenge stronger, and in the process, create the workplace of the future."

- Sarah Oppenhuizen, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, HOK, Principal and Director of Interiors


WorkplaceWednesday-Thought SeriesBlog5"Speaking specifically to the office commercial real estate market, we will see more tenant favored markets develop.  There will be an increase in existing conditions and some companies will be able to capitalize on termination options and lease expirations. The bigger questions are when will this happen and how big will the impact be?”

- Elise Goodman, MBRE, Tenant Rep


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"The office is constantly evolving. While COVID-19 adds a new level of considerations, it’s important to consider a step by step approach like we do when approached with any change. First step is to develop a communications plan. Create a committee to help craft a message that is specific to your company’s culture. Provide a platform for employees to communicate their feelings and measure their readiness to return to the office. Some employees are ready to return to office while others feel most comfortable working remote. Remember there is no one size fits all solution for any situation and that returning to the office is a phased process that can be solved in steps and will evolve along the way.

- Jennifer Graham, Knoll, Architecture & Design Manager


WorkplaceWednesday-Thought SeriesBlog7"I’m embracing the opportunity to have more candid conversations with colleagues and clients. Since we are all experiencing this simultaneously it feels like some walls have come down. Interacting with people in their “home offices” provides an authentic view into what makes them who they are. Conversations have shifted from how work is done in a space to how the space can work best for the person or people who use it whether that is at home or in an outside office. I’m inspired by discussions centered around curiosity about how we will adapt our notion of work and work spaces.”

- Jenn Sheehan, Corporate Concepts, Account Manager


WorkplaceWednesday-Thought SeriesBlog"In my opinion, it is not a question of if the COVID-19 will affect the future of the workplace but rather how deep and drastic it’s impact will be. Immediately, I believe clients will consider furniture planning modules that support increased separation between workspaces including the use of glass and other easily cleanable materials to divide space while still allowing access to natural light. More fundamentally, I think the expectations for the overall performance of workplaces will be raised significantly. These spaces going forward will still have to support high performance work, collaboration, and culture as they do today; but without compromise will also have to truly ensure the health and wellbeing of the people using them. Although the circumstances around us remain uncertain, we look forward to doing our part in working closely with our real estate, design, and construction partners to start to develop creative solutions to the complex challenges that lie ahead for our clients.”

- Ryan Zerante, Corporate Concepts, Vice President of Sales and Operations


WorkplaceWednesday-Thought SeriesBlog2"With the current events in our world economy bringing many challenges to these unchartered territories, its unique circumstances like this that breed creative thinking and new opportunities that we once never even considered. While no industry is exempt from the impact of this ongoing epidemic, our industry and company specifically has risen above these challenges to seize all opportunities and forge forward. Since our average project procurement process from start to finish is months rather than weeks or days, we remain engaged with clients at various stages of their real estate planning process while exploring new solutions to their evolving circumstances.

- Michael Boozell, Corporate Concepts, Account Manager


WorkplaceWednesday-Thought SeriesBlog8"The way we construct and use space needs to be adaptable, accommodating, and equipped to manage the unknown. It must deliver optimal returns and above all, consider the human experience. This type of built environment can be achieved by leveraging technology driven construction and modular solutions, the core principles of our manufacturing partner, DIRTT.

- Andrew Martinez, Accelerate Built Environments, Director of Operations



Has your team started thinking about what going back to work looks like? For more insights on the new workplace future, visit our interactive guide.