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An office lounge area themed after nature, with potted trees and swinging chairs

March 4, 2021

The Future Of Work

Is The Energy of Change
An office lounge area themed after nature, with potted trees and swinging chairs
Summit Credit Union Headquarters, Collaboration Space

Warm greetings friends and welcome to this issue of SyncMAGAZINE.

For the past year, our entire world has changed as we contended with a global health crisis. Attitudes about and aptitudes for change have been tested on a scale never before seen. The current reality is this; we are still discovering new pandemic understandings and their implications surrounding work policies, practices, and protocols. Nevertheless, so much still remains unknown.

Certainly, as architects, engineers, and designers, we strive to comprehend the pandemic’s impact and resulting outcomes within our built environments. We’ll share some of our insights in a moment, but there’s only one thing we’re absolutely certain of: change, and plenty of it. For example, scientists now say mask-wearing, worker pods, and good airflow are far more important than surface cleaning, routine temperature checks, and plexiglass barriers. This is why we believe our ability to harness the energy and opportunities within change will be crucial for future success.

After all, “The Only Thing Constant Is Change”, and within today’s environment, that phrase has entirely new weight.

WHOSE CRYSTAL BALL CAN YOU BELIEVE?

A very modern office area with glass doors
WiscNet World Headquarters

So, what will it be like when we get the thumbs up on returning to work? Well, there is no shortage of pundit predications found. Simply search online for “The Future of Work” and browse the countless results. Couple that with widely differing and frequently shifting local, state, and regional pandemic-related laws and you have an eclectic array of executive orders and binding mandates that must be constantly understood and enforced.

What we should focus on instead is a shift in our perspective, attitude, and approach. Rather than bracing for change, we should be racing towards it. For all of us, change should remain constant, measured, and purposeful.

FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING

Here at Strang, change came at us on two levels, i.e., how we change at work and how we work at change.
An open kitchen area of an office
Strang Waukesha Office, Collaboration and Eating Space

HOW WE CHANGE AT WORK

This time last year, safety in the workplace was about avoiding slips, falls, and industrial accidents. Consider how that conversation has evolved. Now, more than ever, employee safety will be an essential priority of almost every organization. Additionally, facilitating a hybrid office/home workforce, optimizing productivity, empowering collaboration, reinforcing organizational culture, and maintaining morale will also be key goals.

A map of an office with 'collaboration spaces'
Collaboration Spaces Social Distancing Study Example
Our own Erica Ostendorf Mullins, Director of Strang’s Interiors Team shares her insights on how we define, align, and consign resource utilization to optimize the points mentioned above,

“The pandemic is both an opportunity and a test case. We’re learning what we miss most about the workplace and what will be needed in the future. Pre-COVID the conversations about a distributed workplace or preparing for the future were often met with resistance. Now, change is here. And you’re either moving or you’re left behind.”

A crucial element that Erica expects to evolve is the nature of collaboration. What the employee wants will grow in consequence as what the company needs. It is this mutual understanding in the employer/employee relationship that will lead to greater shared experience at work. Collectively, the employer and employee can come together to design the space right for them. Certain tools to facilitate this that we can expect in the built environment include virtual meeting rooms for conference calls or shared resources workstations for those who often work at home. All of this will integrate to form an environment where employees are no longer tethered to their desks and offered easy access to collaboration.
Workers doing business in the office coffeehouse
American Family Insurance, Collaboration Zone

Beyond the changing nature of collaboration, flexibility and autonomy are the two other key components of work that Erica predicts. Flexibility is the ability to work from anywhere at any time. A blended/distributed workplace that provides this flexibility will increasingly become the norm. Autonomy is giving employees control of what they do and work on – the ability to work in the environment that best suits their needs.

So why does this matter? Embracing these ideas will lead to a stronger relationship between employees and employers which will influence physical changes in the work environment. By centering the future of work on a people economy – creating an environment where people are at the center – it will benefit both the company and its people. To support this changing work model, flexibility, autonomy, and empowered collaboration are needed as they lead the way to a more effective workspace and productive workforce.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Erica on this subject, watch the related webinar below:

HOW WE WORK AT CHANGE

According to Larry Barton, Strang’s President and CEO,

“I’ll admit, at first, these deviations from the norm were daunting - they were everchanging and coming at us in rapid-fire. But quickly we’ve developed an aptitude for change. I am in awe by how the Strang team embraced and implemented change. We’ve come to reappreciate how few things improve without change. Change has become a nourishing component within the firm and a sign of true progress. We’ve become ever-resourceful, creative and absolutely resolute in applying the energy of change to our endeavors”.

An office area with shelves that have many documents on it
Strang Madison Office, Shared Workstation

Our levels of collaborative engagement, communications, cooperation, and attitude need to achieve and maintain all-time performance heights. A new hybrid, blended culture will distribute our actual work locations and teammates between the office, home, or anywhere. This means recognizing that colleagues, clients, and aligned industry partners are cohorts in pursuit of shared goals and positive outcomes.

To succeed within this distributed workforce, forward-focused organizations will create, encourage, and nourish a culture of symbiotic leaders at every level. In other words, extract and apply the energy of change, up, down, and throughout your entire organization. Accordingly, each of us will be required to possess an entrepreneurial mindset, proactively searching for innovation and constant improvements.

And too, change gives us further reason to discover and create – together. This is where we’ve assembled – like never before – to collaborate and validate transformative thinking among colleagues and clients alike. As Wayne Whiting, our Chief Operations Officer frequently states, “Each of us, makes all of us, better.”

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS

To sum it up, yes, change can be uncertain, unsettling, indeed unnerving. But so too are continued setbacks caused by reluctance to change. Consider becoming champions of innovation, unabashed changemakers with a fearless courage to harness the positive energy of change. After all, if you’re unable (or unwilling) to harness change, you may find less of it in your pocket.

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