• Jenny Campbell

Don't Kick Culture to the Curb

COVID-19 has affected everyone. It has impacted every aspect of our lives in ways we never could have imagined. We have all tried to stay safe by sheltering in place, but now it is time to come out of our cave and start to live with this virus. How do we protect ourselves and the family/team around us?

There is a lot of information flooding our email, television and social media about social distancing, cleaning/sanitizing spaces and surfaces and personal protective apparel. We hear how restaurants are removing tables, adding physical barriers between tables, and adding acrylic sneeze guards to everything. In the office workplace, meeting spaces are being reduced to only accommodate 10 people, workstations are being zoned to minimize employee proximity, dining areas have fewer seats (1 per table) and the list goes on.

As we have been absorbing this information, we are concerned about the environments that are being created and the emotional impact these spaces have on the occupants. This new environment has been created out of immediate necessity to protect people, but we shouldn’t overlook the cultural impact and how that connects the employee and the company.

The pre-COVID-19 workplace encouraged collaboration, looked to reduce the personal workspace, and provide for more team space. Companies have embraced this strategy and encouraged employees to work in various settings from a workstation, private “phone-booth”, lounge café, conference rooms, etc. Now while living in the COVID-19 world these spaces may not be as inviting and are unquestionably being used differently.

I keep thinking about the environments that I have designed my entire career. Our philosophy has been to design spaces to align with the company culture and to support the business objectives. What can be done to help bridge the gap between what is necessary and what feels good?

You need to protect people in the physical environment while creating a space where people feel safe while still enjoying their surroundings. I believe this a design problem, no different than any other client requirement.

There are critical steps that need to be taken to address the current climate of the workplace. Companies need to:

* Evaluate the situation (gather information about the need and objective)

* Research the situation

* Analyze the information and formulate concepts

* Share information and ideas with client

* Refine ideas and implement the solution

Collaborative Studio has been doing this for our clients for years. The process is the same and the goal is the same. We just have to differentiate how we get there. Our team considers all aspects of change management. We specialize in the strategy as well as the execution of change. But we focus on the people while we navigate. You can't remove this layer because your team will most certainly react to what's going on around them right now. If all aspects are not considered the change can be for the worse not, better.

It's time to accept the facts. We need to work differently, think differently, be different. Change in a way that propels you forward instead of pulling you back. It's possible and we can help.

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