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Best Offices Ottawa: Designing the post-pandemic workplace

Companies across the city are asking fresh questions about how best to use their office space effectively as employees begin to think about returning to the workplace later this year. To help local business owners understand the future of the office, OBJ and sponsor Linebox Studio recently teamed up to explore how companies and organizations can rethink their post-pandemic physical workplace.

This is an edited transcript of a discussion between Andrew Reeves, principal partner and founder at Linebox Studio, and OBJ publisher Michael Curran. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify.

CURRAN: Andrew, how should employers be thinking about office space today and post-pandemic?

REEVES: There are a lot of things to take into consideration right now including design, leases, budgets and schedules. One of the things we stand by is that the qualities and characteristics of a home is what you should be bringing to an office space. That could include things like materials, sounds, acoustics and lighting, and the goal is to match that up with the character of the company. At the core, all design should have a tangible effect on employee performance. COVID exposed a lot of issues with the traditional office design, so it’s exciting that we now have a chance to correct those mistakes.

CURRAN: Andrew, you’ve been reflecting on how to reimagine the office model. Tell us about that.

REEVES: What we’ve always tried to do is pay attention to the human condition and try to create opportunities for employees to connect and engage in the space. We need hubs, and spaces to spark conversation in, not just a static space where employees go to send emails at a desk. You have to allow that opportunity through design, like pull-over stations in a staircase where employees could bump into each other and come up with the company’s next big idea.

CURRAN: If someone is asking themselves where to start planning for a post-pandemic office, what would you say?

REEVES: We are in a really privileged time to start questioning and redefining what the office means and how it functions. People absolutely need to be flexible when it comes to returning to the office. Companies need to look within and decide how they want their space to function and ensure that every employee has a space to work that they feel comfortable in.
A key thing to keep in mind is timing. These projects do take time, so it’s not about reacting to the now, but planning for the future office. It’s not about (Plexiglass) walls and stickers on the floors, we need to be thinking about a year from now and what that culture and office space will look like.