Post-COVID Workplace

How the Pandemic Has Opened Our Eyes to What’s Wrong With the Office

Johanna Munck af Rosenschöld’s Vision On The Future of Work

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360 spoke with Johanna Munck af Rosenschöld about how the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology to improve remote work and why the industry has failed to give people what they need in the office.

 

What COVID Taught Us

360º: How has COVID changed your perspective on the future of your business and the industry?

Johanna Munck:

We went into this as a crisis response, but we have learned to live with it pretty well, in most cases. I think that on the one hand, working remotely has really worked out much better than anyone would have expected. On the other hand, as architects, the prolonged homeworking has enhanced what we probably already knew about our work: the parts of our activities which involve creativity and innovation, such as the starting up of projects, have been the most challenging tasks during this time. So, in this sense, the pandemic has shown us that although it is possible to work remotely, our creativity flourishes when we are all together in the same physical place.

Accelerated Tech Adoption

360º: Which trends do you think are here to stay, and will change the way you work?

JM:

The most interesting thing to me is that the pandemic has been an accelerator for digitalization. Almost every organisation, including ours is now learning new apps, new digital tools, different technical solutions that probably wouldn't have been investigated otherwise, or at least not as quickly as they are now. In hindsight, it's interesting that we didn't do it before. In the past, if someone was sick or someone couldn't be at work, in most organisations they would have missed the meeting. Now there's a simple process for people to join and be part of the community, even though they're somewhere else. Remote work won't work as the one and only way to interact, but it helps us stay connected and make projects progress, provided that it is done in combination with face-to-face collaboration. Today we have more diverse ways of working together and the increased flexibility is here to stay.

“We have a lot of things to improve in offices, for example the industry has failed to design work environments that provide individual spaces for focus.”

Johanna Munck

Fixing What’s Wrong in the Office

360º: We learned a lot while working from home – what improvements do you think we need to make to offices?

JM:

When you read the press, you hear how tech companies are saying we don't need the office anymore. We can work perfectly from home. But that’s not true – many people cannot. They have young children, they have small apartments, or they have other things that makes it difficult for them. So, I don't believe the office will go away any time soon. At the same time, we have a lot of things to improve in offices to make them suitable to meet all needs. For example, just to name one thing, the industry has failed to design work environments that provide individual spaces for focus. When people feel that they can get more privacy and be more focused/productive at home than at the workplace, there is something lacking at the office.

New Opportunities

360º: How do you see the physical workplace changing as a result of what’s happened this year?

JM:

Innovation is key to success and it needs physical meetings, both planned and spontaneous. Informal meetings, socializing and building company culture - these are the things that we miss when working from home. For a lot of the young people that are new in the workforce and maybe don’t have the same network as more senior colleagues do, the office is an important place to be. But we must be more flexible about how we design offices and of course address the question of safety and wellbeing of the people that will use these spaces. For example, we are currently doing work for one of the largest employers in Sweden, which is in the tech business. They are not questioning the need for a physical workplace, but they are asking themselves and us questions like, “Should we have a huge headquarter, or should we have different locations and offer smaller hubs on the other side of the city?” It's a bit early to make assumptions after just a few months — a lot of things have happened very quickly and in a short period of time — but it will be definitely interesting to see how the office will develop in the longer term. This pandemic has definitely created opportunities for us to reimagine the future office.

Johanna Munck af Rosenschöld, architect and CEO at Strategisk Arkitektur, a Stockholm-based office of 60 employees specializes in the fields of property development, commercial spaces, residential design, urban planning and interior design. Johanna is committed to designing creative, effective and sustainable offices for the future.

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