The UnWork Series: UnComfortable
Author The UnWork Series: UnComfortable  | 

Top Ten Takeaways

The first webinar in the new UnWork Series was based around the theme of ‘Uncomfortable’. It’s been just over a century since the last pandemic, and the situation that we’re currently experiencing has pushed many of us well out of our comfort zones in terms of how we are navigating our working lives, with no way to know precisely what will come next. The discussion in the webinar centred around how this is affecting our workplaces and working practice, and how we can navigate this from a design perspective.

With Pernille Stafford from Resonate Interiors and Imogen Privett from UnWork predicting both short and long-term implications, if you didn’t have a chance to catch it live, here are 10 key takeaways or you can watch the whole webinar below:

Short term:

  1. Desire for connection will be tempered by anxiety: Craving social connection and interaction with colleagues, people will come back to the office but nervousness around sharing space with other people will need to be carefully managed.
  2. Shift away from serendipity: We’ll see a shift in the paradigm that has been driving workplace design in recent decades – trying to prompt serendipitous interactions – towards predictable behaviours and carefully managing both planned and unplanned social contact.
  3. Careful curation of people and space: With restrictions likely to ease only gradually, movement will have to be carefully managed – this could include staggered start times, rotas to manage numbers, a shift towards larger desk sizes and the use of occupancy technology such as sensors to direct people around the workplace.
  4. An inter-disciplinary approach: Different disciplines working together to solve some of our most pressing challenges is resulting in rapid innovation – we should be looking to learn from evolving best practice within other industries rather than only looking to other workplaces for inspiration.

Longer term:

  1. Shift towards balance and flexibility: Organisations that would have traditionally said home working was too difficult are having to make it work. People are feeling some of the benefits – no commute, more autonomy over their day (once home-schooling stops, at any rate) – and it will be difficult to justify completely pulling back, leading companies to recognise how people want to work and try to support that.
  2. Workplace as the social heart of an organisation: The office isn’t dead but proving that home working can work will push it towards being the social heart of an organisation, providing rich and diverse spaces for collaboration and connection.
  3. Sitting more lightly on the earth: Reduced urban movement has resulted in some positives for the environment in only a short period of time – better air quality, nature coming back to urban spaces. There’s a strong argument for trying to build on this as we move towards our new normal.
  4. Personalisation of space: People will be used to having their own things around them having been at home for some time. However, concerns about cleanliness and clutter will mean that they won’t necessarily want to bring personal belongings back to work with them, instead looking to new technologies to provide a personalised experience.
  5. Memorable and identity-rich spaces: People will be looking for better alignment between space and company culture, with workplaces that reflect that company’s brand and values to provide a rich, differentiated experience.
  6. The digital building: Greater acceptance of online collaboration tools should lead to much greater integration between space and technology which have typically been considered separately. Concerns about touching shared surfaces also seem likely to drive acceptance of new technologies such as biometrics, enabling people to access buildings, make payments and call elevators without having to physically interact with building infrastructure.

Ultimately, we are going to be shifting towards a new version of normal and it’s up to us to write that story. The webinar ended with a reflection on what the panellists had been doing with time that they would otherwise have spent commuting; what would you like your new normal to be?


If you’re feeling UnComfortable or have questions about the future of work and workplace design – or any of the specific themes raised in the discussion – please feel free to reach out to:

UnWork: Sasha Tinson – Development Director: [email protected]

Resonate Interiors: Susan Nash – Development Director: [email protected]