COVID-19 changed everything. No surprise there.
In the middle of March, Interface Base Camp emptied out overnight as our company—like almost every organization in the US—scrambled to secure the health and safety of employees. The months since have been a mix of waiting and watching while we figure out the best way to reopen the office. For now, we have a small number of people voluntarily coming in a few days a week, but we’re already planning ahead for a busier, fuller office space.
But what does that look like?
We have a lot of questions to answer before we go back to business as usual—or is it “the new normal”? As our internal and external customers begin to return to Base Camp at a regular cadence, what needs to happen to make the space safe and beautiful for everyone?
The advantage of undertaking a project like this is that it not only aids in planning for COVID and post-COVID, but it also gives us a chance to look at how the building has been serving us after almost two years. What spaces are not being utilized as much as we originally hoped? Do we need to add more furniture or take some away? Are we making any permanent changes? How do we make employees feel safe and connected at the same time?
What’s in a redesign?
When we welcomed employees to Base Camp in the fall of 2018, it was intended as a community gathering place and a showcase for innovation. It will always be a place for employees, designers, and customers to interact and collaborate, and as we rethink how the space will operate in response to COVID-19, we intend to continue in that spirit. It will just look different.
In May, we put together a core team of “Interfacers” from different departments to facilitate and document the changes happening around the building. We’ve also partnered with Perkins + Will (who were involved in the initial design of Base Camp) to help the group evaluate the options and make decisions. Further, we’ve received some consultation from Steelcase, since furniture placement and configuration are a huge consideration when you’re giving everyone a six-foot berth around the building.
As anyone involved in a commercial construction or design project knows, it’s not a simple A-to-Z process. There are budgets to consider, stakeholders to involve, and let’s not forget that an ongoing global pandemic brings health and safety to the forefront of every discussion. We know that Interface isn’t the only organization thinking about COVID-19’s implications to our built space. We think it might be helpful to publicly chart our process in hopes that it might help others—since we’re all in this together.
In future posts, we intend to talk about:
- We surveyed our employees to better understand their current attitudes and what they’d need from Base Camp in order to feel safe coming back. The results from these surveys will help us in with density discussions for short-term and long-term planning.
- We’re considering several temporary and permanent changes throughout the building to make it more usable. We also have to take into account furniture and spacing considerations that are both flexible and changeable.
- Taking the data and space planning into consideration, we want to share what the final plans look like and why we made certain decisions. This also includes changing up the floor designs throughout the building to illustrate principles of “designing for distance” — a key solution provided by Interface’s modular products.
- Such big changes require full buy-in from Interface leaders and employees alike. From a change management perspective, we want to communicate what we are doing to make everyone comfortable and get them on-board with changes to Base Camp by the time we fully reopen.
There is no single way to go back to work. For Interface, it’s very much one step at a time. We hope that documenting our process as it happens will provide guidance for any other organizations thinking through their own return to work. Join us on this journey, and feel free to share your own experiences!