Returning to office comes with unique challenges

As life gradually returns to normal, it is having a big impact on one of 2020’s standout developments—remote work. While many workers continue to do their jobs from home, others are starting to return to the office. But the office may not be quite the same, as companies and designers seek explore new hybrid workspaces.

Things are starting to return to a level of pre-COVID normalcy. Just last week the mask mandate was lifted in the city and county of St. Louis. Governor Mike Parson also recently signaled a return to office for thousands of state employees. At the same time, many major local employers are keeping most of their staff working remotely. Centene, for instance, which employs over 5,000 people in the region, is currently 97% remote.

Nevertheless, the events of the last year are still having a big impact on what the workplace looks like going forward. According to Jamie Feuerborn of Ted Moudis Associates, whenever people return to the office, it isn’t going to be quite the same. People have gotten used to the flexibility of remote work. This, combined with continued concern over COVID and other potential threats, is leading to a lot of downsizing and hybridization.

Most companies will keep at least some office space for meetings and other collaborations, although there is now an emphasis too on being able to have combined in-person and Zoom meetings. Companies are also seeking to give offices a more welcoming feel, a place to work undistracted from all the noise at home. It is thus taking some inspiration from residential interior design.

One much discussed change is that of “hoteling,” whereby workers can check out a desk for a day or a week, instead of having a traditional dedicated office space. Designed to accommodate for an environment where people regularly alternate between on site and remote work, the idea has some drawbacks. For some employees it is simply not feasible, while others do still value the idea of having their own space in the office.

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