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How to Curate a Blended Workplace Post Pandemic

March 8, 2021

Originally Posted on Globe St.com

The pandemic will no doubt change the workspace. While many are waiting to see what the new office environment will look like, Mark Coxon of Tangram expects a blended workplace with opportunities to work remotely and in the office. To accommodate these changes, workplace design will need to change as well. This will mean changes in perspective of meetings and communication, technology and even furniture.

“The platforms we use now for remote interaction are all very time-based. We come together in a Zoom meeting for one or two hours, the room expires, and we close out,” Coxon, technology sales director at Tangram, tells GlobeSt.com. “Maybe we send an email with some action items and then we schedule another meeting. We recap what we did last time and run through deliverables. Often almost half of every meeting is a restart, with the next half getting to a certain point before we have to stop again. More effective meeting management is critical for boosting productivity.”

Furniture will need to change to accompany new meeting styles and objectives. “To set an analytical frame of mind, use soft furniture that allows people to lean back into a seated, thoughtful position. For a more creative mood, people should be perching and active with standing height seats, high tables and similar items since motion activates the brain,” says Coxon.

It isn’t only the furniture, but the format as well. Coxon notes that the “head chair” at the top of the meeting table will need to be replaced with round or even hexagonal and trapezoidal shapes that are more conducive to new styles of workplace meetings. “Adapting to personal styles is the key. It’s based on a concept called neuro-diversity in terms of how people best work and learn, and creating spaces that support different modes,” he adds. “Some people like to sit; some like to stand; some like to have their gear on their lap; some prefer a table.”

Technology also needs to adapt to virtual meetings. The laptop single-camera does not work for large meetings with multiple people contributing to the conversation. “When a few people are sitting in front of their laptop, three feet from the screen, they are presented full-faced during a call or meeting,” says Coxon. “But the eight people who are back in the conference room that used to seat 16 are all small heads around the table. There can be an imbalance in terms of visual access, perceived role and impact that can be detrimental. Cameras are available with presets to trigger different views of the room or close-ups of certain seats.”

Lighting and display format is nearly as important as the camera. Coxon says that lights need to better highlight people’s faces to reduce shadows, and larger format displays are important to better display presentations as well as meeting participants.

Many of these features were already coming into effect before the pandemic struck. However, they were considered nice-to-haves. Today, they are essential. As Coxon says, “As the workplace continues to evolve, those nice-to-haves are becoming essential priorities.”

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