NeoCon 2022

The new era of hybrid work means people will have choices about where to work and, in many ways, the office has to work even harder to attract people and keep them coming back. Offices will need to earn people’s commute by meeting a new set of needs: support hybrid work, establish connections, create a sense of belonging and promote wellbeing — all of which suffered during the pandemic.

This requires a shakeup in thinking about the future of the office. Rather than basing office design on the need to fit more people into less space, the workplace should draw inspiration from a new source that is less about efficiency and more about humanity — the vibrant communities in which we live. Jane Jacobs, author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” argued decades ago people need diverse neighborhoods to thrive, where homes, bustling sidewalks, shops, parks and public spaces come together and “exist in extraordinary variety.”

Organizations can create diverse neighborhoods in their workplace as a tangible way to communicate their values and shift their culture. The workplace can create the same energy and connection people feel sitting in a sidewalk cafe or the same level of solitude they experience in their library or the privacy of their own home.
Neighborhoods at work, like the ones people live in, are a homebase for people and teams, departments or project teams. They include a variety of interconnected spaces that support different types of work, a mixture of uses and the natural flow from one to another. They include:

• Individual spaces assigned to one person or shared amongst the team
• Collaboration spaces for in-person and virtual interactions that support the different ways people need to come together
• Places with appropriate privacy for individual heads down work or finding solitude and rejuvenation
• Areas to gather, socialize and learn with teammates

Neighborhoods become a destination, where people feel comfort and confidence they can find their teammates and the tools they need to do their work.

For a neighborhood to truly work for people it has to be based on a fundamentally new employee experience.