Balanced COVID-19-Related Design Ideas & Research Findings
The Reconnected Workplace
WORKPLACES THAT WORK
Now more than ever, we crave connection, be it virtual or physical.
DLR Group designers, engineers, researchers, and building performance specialists are excited to share the
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BACK TO OFFICE
RESILIENT WORKPLACE 2.0
WORK FROM HOME DESIGN KIT
Many enterprises invest considerably in curating the work environment to match their culture and inspire their employees toward innovation. These offices are amenity rich, and equitable in that every employee has access to the same tools for success, and is part of the same user experience.
Ad-hoc work from home environments have left many employees feeling less engaged, less cared for, and less connected to company culture. With Work From Home (WFH) persisting — either by choice or mandate — it's time to provide those employees with their own version of a curated, enriched work environment.
In response, DLR Group has developed a prototype Work from Home Kit. The Kit specifies core furniture & technology essentials, and customizable comfort, sensory, nourishment, culture, and biophilia add-ons.
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Some employees returning to the physical workplace may be experiencing varying levels of grief, trauma, or elevated anxiety. Establishing psychological safety in the work environment relies on building equity, breaking down barriers, and allowing for certain levels of self-control and privacy.
Although removing barriers and adding privacy seem paradoxical, B. Sanborn — DLR Group's R&D Director and environmental psychologist — breaks down how they both can be accomplished simultaneously using Universal Design principles.
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As employees have adjusted to working from home, many have discovered new benefits, and many have discovered things they miss about the office. Our Back to Office survey evaluates mood, shifts in behavior and Work Modalities, communication impacts, and concerns & opportunities around the return.
The results can inform both a company’s reentry plan and changes to the physical work environment that respond to lessons learned in WFH. We've captured insights from almost 900 responses in an infographic that outlines prevalent patterns and interests.
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Right now, the world is focused on necessary immediate changes to our "norms" — in work, learning, play, virtually every aspect of life.
As we move past this rush of newness, as a vaccine is introduced and antibody testing is widespread, what are the indelible changes that will impact the future of work?
A Futurist think tank of DLR Group Interior Designers, Healthcare and Hospitality specialists, High Performance Building specialists, and Engineers put their minds together to develop ideas around the Far Future Resilient Workplace 2.0 at the Building, Office, and Desk level.
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DLR Group WORKPLACE LEADER
IDEAS IN ACTION
Best practices & lessons learned from current client engagements
© DLR Group 2021
This information is statement of opinion presented for general informational purposes. DLR Group recommends an independent evaluation of applicable federal, state and local guidelines before implementing any strategy discussed herein.
DLR Group is an integrated design firm providing architecture, engineering, planning, and interior design from offices around the globe.
IN THE MEDIA
Conversation guide for multi-tenant building reentry
As officials begin to relax COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, enterprises are developing reentry plans. In multi-tenant buildings, open conversations between building owners and tenants are crucial, but there is so much information out there it can be hard to know where to start.
This conversation starter gathers 10 common topics — including building data, systems, circulation, and sanitization — along with links to leading public sources, into one handy reference guide. Office tenants and building owners can work together with engineers and interior design teams toward a safe, successfully coordinated reentry.
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Experiential graphic design: BEYOND THE SIGN TO HIGH DESIGN
As offices reopen, behavior changes will be helped along by explicit visual information on stickers and signage. More permanent, artful solutions for spatial awareness can complement these temporary overt cues. DLR Group interior design and environmental graphics teams joined forces to explore ideas that rely on human intuition, a touch of whimsy, and commonly available materials and products that will live on past the need for distancing. This fitness-oriented workplace shows how the central ideas are tailored to company brand and culture, from the bleachers to the board room.
Rentry design virtual workshops
We've scoured official and creative sources to develop a comprehensive workplace reentry option set, then developed a virtual workshop that allows diverse stakeholders to discuss and select from these options —
or add their own — to co-create a tailored, prioritized action plan.
BUILDING SYSTEMS READINESS
COVID-19 has brought heightened awareness of building systems' impacts on operating costs, air quality, and health & wellness. DLR Group's engineering leadership has compiled their expertise into a simple building systems readiness checklist. This reference tool includes insights into HVAC, humidity, ventilation, filtration, distribution, energy, and water and is applicable to all building types.
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SPEC OFFICE: THE CONNECTOR
As people return to the physical workplace, office buildings will need to respond with enhanced building features, from amenities to technology to infrastructure. Tenants want to do more with less. The Connector is an update to the typical spec office building, exploring realistic options that research shows top-tier will consider when making leasing decisions.
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Reentry planning brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, from Human Resources to Technology, Facilities, and in some cases newly minted Chief Health Officers. While sometimes these perspectives have seemingly competing interests, they are now all working together to see to it that employees feel safe and connected as some return to the office and some remain working from home. Over the past few months, we've translated our in-person discovery workshops into an interactive, digital meeting space and learned many lessons about effective consensus building in virtual settings. The good news? It can work….and there can even be advantages when the process is well designed. We applied these lessons learned to develop our Reentry Design Virtual Workshop.
This workshop gives clients a platform to select options, prioritize, and affirm a solid framework for a formalized Workplace Reentry Design Plan, through the lenses of cost, culture, and values.
During the session, a DLR Group facilitator is a neutral third-party, guiding client stakeholders through a series of pulse polls and into the brunt of the discussion: options from each category are voted on, debated, and prioritized by populating a Now, Near, Future grid. The prioritization also allows for separation of options into Baseline (this is a given) to Innovative (this would be trickier to pull off and requires additional study). Through discussion, the prioritized options crystallize in alignment with cost and culture.
We hear from our clients that the reentry planning process is most effective when all parties are heard, and a shared path forward is mutually agreed upon. We’re optimistic that from the unifying dialogue that flows in a Design Workshop setting, reentry plans will spring that contribute to our clients’ future resiliency and togetherness.
Reentry Design Planning Workshop
THE RECONNECTED WORKPLACE
What does a Reentry Workshop look like in action?
We began by crowdsourcing workplace reentry design considerations from across DLR Group’s global studios. Six option categories emerged: Distancing, Technology, Circulation, Spatial, Organizational, and Sanitization. The comprehensive option set (over 100 choices!) was then cross-referenced with current recommendations and guidance from the CDC, OSHA, and AIA. Each category’s options are scaled from least costly to implement to most costly to implement, with additional consideration lenses including sustainability and a cultural values overlay unique to each company.
How were the options defined?
Back to Reconnected Workplace
Over the past 12 months, COVID-19 has revolutionized how companies work - and dramatically shifted the expectations developers, landlords and operators, and individual tenants have of their office buildings.
How does spec office design change to acknowledge this new reality?
Today's Spec Office
AIA, Senior Associate
"Spec office buildings of the future will shift from efficient boxes to contain blank space to responsive and dynamic shells that create healthy and unique destinations for active collaboration."
Michael Vander Ploeg
BEMP, RESET AP, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, Senior Associate
Building Performance Analyst
Meet the Experts
Interested in a deeper dive into The Connector's features and performance specs?
MIKE VANDER PLOEG
As we discussed the future with developer partners across the nation, a theme emerged: CONNECTION.
We designed The Connector as a responsive and dynamic shell supporting a high-performing destination for collaboration.
Scalable for Multi-Market Fit
The Connector you see here is an 18 story, 288,000 SF concept prototype, fit for Class-A urban cores. Intentionally small floorplates — 16,000 SF — are optimal for daylight penetration and respond to average lease sizes trending downwards.
The concept can scale up in response to urban context, or down to match mid-rise pro formas in suburban areas. As some companies decentralize their office portfolios, this flexible concept matches the scale of development investment to market demand.
Each of the building's four faces look and act differently, tuned to climatic variables at each orientation. The shape and massing account for solar and wind conditions. Cladding materials prioritize daylight while reducing solar heat gain.
Operable windows provide additional air circulation and natural ventilation. Coupling the windows to the HVAC system reduces the chances of inefficiently conditioning the outside.
Tuned to the surrounding environment
Reducing operating costs while improving occupant experience
Learning about and responding to occupant needs
Lifestyle shift toward physical & mental health
What Makes THE CONNECTOR Different?
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Rollover the icons for an overview; click to dive deeper
The Connector's infrastructure has gone under the microscope from HVAC systems – increased ventilation, improved filtration, and controlled humidity levels – to the efficiency of the core and vertical circulation.
With a bit of aesthetic help, egress stairs serve a dual function: safety, plus an enjoyable way of traveling between floors.
Taking cues from hospitality, The Connector supports a shift from a transactional mentality to an experiential one. Curated spaces and programs help social and cultural environments blossom with memorable sensory experiences that keep tenants and visitors invigorated every time
"Invisible amenities" focused on cleanliness and ease of use include touchless
An integrated IoT backbone allows captured datapoints to provide deeper insight into building performance, space utilization, and indoor environmental quality.
Data transparency allows occupants to better understand their space, and eventually allows the building to learn and react to their needs in real time.
High-performance warm shells are the baseline for either anchor tenancy or multi-tenant layouts. Layered into that shell are heavily amenitized interiors.
New "essentials" include local food and beverage offerings, niche fitness and wellbeing programs, and areas of respite to disconnect from work. A groundfloor building "mudroom" includes space to store bikes and freshen up before getting into the flow of daily interactions.
Across the country, people are reconnecting with nature; they wish to work outside, feel the breeze, hear the birds. Science supports "nature contact" as having mental health benefits and being ideal for soft focus tasks including ideation and creative thought.
Abundant indoor-outdoor permeability, terraces on multiple floors, and a landscaped roof deck provide tenants plenty of space to socialize and recharge.
Reset mentally and socially
Air Quality Monitor
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As companies adjust to the new realities of work during COVID-19, many are beginning to cast their gaze forward. As of September 2020, DLR Group is exploring COVID-19 responsive workplace design solutions with several valued client partners.
These right-sized solutions range across a continuum, from simple de-densification planning to comprehensive reimagining of complete workplace ecosystems.
Pre-vaccine, most clients are experiencing two factors driving office de-densification: social distancing requirements and the work from home model. These factors represent decreased capacity and decreased demand, respectively. In this sense, they can be balanced with careful planning. Along with engineering controls and behavioral considerations, desking strategies can support a physical work environment that complies with OSHA, CDC, and other current safety recommendations. Many offices are combining work from home programs with free addressing strategies to safely accommodate employees who choose to return to the office, or who are required to work from the office by the nature of their roles. Hover over the red squares below to explore four open office de-densification test fits for a client considering their return to work options. These range from 50% to 77% of pre-COVID-19 capacity.
Ideas in Action
Free addressing is by its nature a flexible workplace planning and office desking approach that improves resilience and adaptability. View our Guide to the Rising Role of Free Addressing, including COVID-19 Return to Office Considerations.
How can free addressing help?
COVID-19 has completely changed where, when and how people are working around the world. This technology company's 15,000+ employees are no exception. They reached out to us to help them create a comprehensive strategy reimagining the way they work: both in and out of the office. The appropriately named “Reimagine” umbrella holds parallel tracks all designed to support the transition into an increasingly dynamic work environment. In this new workplace ecosystem, people can and do work from anywhere, they have empowered choices over their workplace environments to be most productive, and the business can effectively respond to the changing ratio of on-site to remote work. Four tracks engaged every single employee to result in a holistic recommendations report that balances value to individual employees, to teams, and to the enterprise. Roll over the blocks below for a process summary. More insights and lessons learned will be available in November upon completion of this ongoing engagement.
Reimagining the Workplace Ecosystem
Reorient & Separate
Spine and desk screens; optional mobile screen
Requires core drill modifications or power pulls
122 60" wide workstations
Recommended One-Way Traffic Patterns
No layout change
Increased barriers and screening
Increase density as conditions change
Phased Re-entry or Shift Work
Desks pulled apart; reduces face-to-face contact
Added barriers and mobile screens
90 degree desk rotation eliminates face-to-face contact
Spine and desk screens; optional mobile screen
Requires core drill modifications or power pulls
Desks pulled apart to increase distancing
Spine and desk screens; optional mobile screens
Requires core drill modifications or power pulls
Four major space types analyzed // KPIs identified // design review of 12 ongoing global projects
Four workshops // ecosystem mapping
Company-wide survey // 13 focus groups // validated findings report
Link to Global Design Guidelines & Building Performance Analytics