Published by: The Orange County Business Journal

Author: Heidi Hendy, Managing Principal, Hendy

As a long-time business owner in Orange County, I understand firsthand that the novel Coronavirus has greatly impacted and posed numerous physical, financial and emotional challenges for the local business community. In a matter of weeks, many of us were pushed to vacate or close our workplaces, make reductions in staffing and stay at home to practice social distancing, all while helping our teams adjust to working remotely.

As state and local governments plan to reopen our economy, it’s clear that returning to the workplace will not only be a gradual and measured effort, but also the “office” as we’ve known it can no longer look or function like it had before. This is only the beginning of a new era of business. With six-foot social distancing, density reduction, an increased use of contactless technologies, and health and safety protocols, business leaders will need to think different before executing a reentry into the workplace. The Coronavirus has officially rewritten the way business works.

Through this process, Hendy has developed a three-phase playbook to assist our clients in reentering the workplace. Here are a few of our best practices to consider implementing as a part of reentry:

  • Space Risk Mitigation: Physical changes may include occupancy density reduction to meet six-foot social distancing requirements in personal workspaces and common areas, as well as temporary measures to reduce risk of infection including the addition of screens, panels and other barriers. Additionally, implementing headcount reduction using staggered or block schedules and workplace cleaning and maintenance protocols should be considered as a part of the overall health and safety strategy.
  • Continuing Technology Innovation: New toolkits. New options. We will undoubtedly come out of this with new skills, and a better understanding of what technologies can enhance and support the future knowledge worker. The coming months may bring to light new ideas around virtual collaboration, potentially utilizing augmented reality platforms and technologies we could not have imagined three months ago. Built environments will also look to add touchless solutions that use voice activation, motion sensors and virtual receptions to support the new hands-free environment. Hendy recognizes that technology will continue to be a vital part of workplace strategy.
  • Employee User Experience: User experience is at the heart of it all. In striving to make our workplace healthy and our employees feel safe and productive, we must effectively communicate new protocols and expectations upon returning to the office. Management must also engage with their employees to understand the readiness of their workforce.
  • Change Management: As we begin to bring our people back to work, we must be prepared to communicate changes and the many ways in which employee safety and health are being addressed. Documenting and communicating change in an effective manner will help improve buy-in and ensure that employees comply with new guidelines. But remember, change should be communicated in ways that are easy to understand, remember and follow. Enter the journey map: a single source guide for a new on-site experience that helps limit the need for employees to physically search the office for answers.
  • A Certified-Healthy Workplace: Now more than ever, the workforce is thinking about their health and how their surroundings are physically and mentally impacting their wellbeing. As people return to work, they may have several unanswered questions such as: Will the office be sanitized? Are viruses living on the surfaces? Will the air I breathe be clean or just recirculated? These concerns can be addressed by working with an interior architect to design a WELL-certified office with accreditation from the International WELL Building Institute™ or Fitwel, a star rating system based on how many wellness strategies are successfully implemented.

One thing we have learned from our collective work-from-home experience is that we are social beings. We need to gather. We yearn to collaborate in person. And, despite all the talk about a distributed workforce, the office remains relevant. Take this as an opportunity to pause – to reexamine your priorities and reset your corporate vision. Focus on building a better office with the adaptability needed to evolve and consider how your employees and your space can best support your long-term objectives.

Adapting to all this change understandably may feel daunting. Here at Hendy, our experienced team of WELL-accredited, licensed interior architects have been guiding Orange County businesses through space planning for 40 years, creating workplace environments that promote employee wellbeing, deliver on business objectives and provide optimal return on investment. Our newest product offering, “The New Generation Space,” is focused specifically on helping local businesses adapt to today’s new normal, post-COVID-19. We’re here to help.

Heidi Hendy is the founder and managing principal at H. Hendy Associates (Hendy), an Orange County-based interior architecture and planning firm commemorating 40 years in business. Heidi oversees the design development and project operations for a prestigious list of clients including Behr Paint Company, SAP and Kawasaki, among others. In 2019, she was named an “Excellence in Entrepreneurship” honoree by the Orange County Business Journal.