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As the workplace industry adapts further to post-COVID-19 norms, corporate headquarters are shifting to designs that do more than deliver operational performance and efficiency. The ability to attract and retain top talent has become a primary focus, especially as hybrid working remains the norm and employers are trying to find ways to make remote workers want to spend more time in person with colleagues. One of the ways office design and construction is accomplishing this is to ensure that spaces embody the culture, diversity, sustainability, collaboration, wellness and technology-forward principles that employees increasingly say they want in employers of choice.

There is a central paradox at the heart of today’s office: creating a place where people want to be, inherently means it also needs to be a space they can be away from without missing a beat. This isn’t a simple task, as companies must align technology and built environments that can empower geographically distributed teams and still bring people back physically. A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that work flexibility is expected to be an increasingly significant contributor to worker well-being in the future, and coupled with wellness, remain top of mind for company culture. To incorporate this successfully requires more than HR policies; it requires spaces engineered to ensure people can balance life and work without employers losing a step in the market. Importantly, companies also need to accomplish this sustainably, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because employees say they want to work for companies that do the right thing. This all starts with projects that create their work environments. 

According to BOMA International, corporate build-out and renovation projects now need to balance maximizing the utility of each square foot with simultaneously creating a compelling destination that includes a variety of spaces and amenities focused on wellness and productivity. Recent additions to headquarters projects feature spaces like daycare facilities, barber shops and salons, gyms, pet-friendly amenities, eco-friendly living ‘green’ walls, bike shops, wellness areas, prayer rooms, EV charging stations and outdoor walking paths so that employees can address their personal to-dos, mental health and wellness activities within their work environments. These elements are key drivers in bringing the workforce back to the office in a post-COVID-19 environment.

According to a recent Ambius survey, 93% of Americans want companies to invest more in healthy indoor environments. Among the key improvements to headquarters that employees look for are air quality, hygiene and natural design elements. These new expectations will be a driving force behind the future of design for indoor spaces. In other words, even at work, there needs to be seamless opportunities to be away from one’s inbox.

“Seamless” is an operative word, as it’s not enough just to have cool spaces; experiences need to be engineered to reduce friction in ways that make offices feel worth the time lost in commuting. Companies also need to plan and build for today’s (and likely tomorrow’s) hybrid reality, including, for example, collaboration rooms with top-notch audio-visual systems to easily integrate remote and in-person workers and experiences—as well as digital connectivity, remote access control and speed to avoid too much time spent asking “Can you see or hear me?” The Harvard Business Review says that “In human moments people are often energized and more likely to empathize with each other, which supports organizational culture and collaboration” and that when communication takes place remotely “the connection is severely weakened.”

By bringing together what is important to both employees and the goals of the organization as a whole, the corporate headquarters can be a well-rounded strategic enabler of organizational success. By thinking ahead, continuing to remain flexible and mitigating any potential stresses, both the workplace and in-office teams can continue to thrive because they instill a sense of freedom and wellbeing that benefits both the employees and the company.

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