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Insights from the experts behind Best Offices Ottawa

The Ottawa Business Journal recently launched the 2021 edition of Best Offices Ottawa to highlight some of the city’s top commercial spaces.

The annual publication is a celebration of aesthetically beautiful, functional and healthy offices across the National Capital Region. To celebrate the launch of the 2021 edition, OBJ brought together several of the city’s leading workplace experts to explore how our office environments are evolving.

This is an edited transcript of a discussion between OBJ publisher Michael Curran and HOK practice leader Lynn Ferron. To hear the full interview as well as insights from Best Offices Ottawa sponsors Provencher_Roy, BDA Lighting Group and Ergo-Safety, please watch the video above. 

CURRAN: Are offices gone? Are we ever going to return to the office?

FERRON: I don’t believe they are gone completely, but there will be a shift. A year ago, we saw a spike in productivity when everyone first transitioned to remote work. However, a year later we are starting to see cracks. People are feeling isolated, and there is a lack of physical presence which is creating barriers for creative or collaborative work. There is a real desire to return to the workplace – at least part-time. 

CURRAN: Is this disruption an opportunity to rethink the purpose of the office?

FERRON: It absolutely is! One thing we have to remember is when we return to the office, things will look different. We can’t go back to the office that we had because things have changed. We have to acknowledge gaps and flaws that existed before the pandemic. Was the office flexible, was technology up to par, were there collaborative spaces? Now, going back, we have to think really hard about health, wellness and shared spaces since those weren’t nearly as top of mind as they are now. 

CURRAN: Lynn, what kind of conversations are you having with clients?

FERRON: We are hearing lots of questions about how to safely return to the office and how to best implement physical distancing and safety measures. A hybrid model will likely be one of the most-adopted ways of working. Businesses will have the hub, which is the epicentre of the company and the prime location for work and collaboration. This would nurture the company culture and provide everyone with a great place to work. From there, companies can have touchdown offices through the city, or employees can choose to work from home on days where they don’t want to come into the office. Corporations are trying to figure out how to adapt to that model, which is one of the biggest challenges going forward.