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Back to the Office: The Purpose of Place

We’ve focused on returning to the workplace safely amidst the pandemic. Now we’re focused on the future and designing for “why” we go to the office.

In April of 2020, Bergmeyer shared our “Back to Office” re-entry plan with other businesses across industries. Using our own office as a test case, we came up with strategies and implementation processes to help ourselves and others get back to work in the office.

With health and safety for everyone at the foremost of our planning, we successfully re-opened our office and worked throughout the rest of 2020, following all state & federal guidelines. Policies and procedures became second nature for each employee, whether working in the office or remotely.

We became very successful at working remotely in teams on small and very complex projects and reported on our return to the workplace progress in June.

The Purpose

While we have focused on going back to the office safely, we have also given much thought to why we go to the office. What is the Purpose of Place? When we are together in the office, it is the casual conversations that enhance our life and work experience. Through these discussions, we connect and learn to navigate our world and its complexities. It is the community that gives Purpose to the Place.

The Place

Bergmeyer underwent a brand relaunch in June of 2020 that was the successful completion of a two-year process. We are now refreshing our office space to connect more meaningfully to our Branding and Guiding Principles realignment as a Design Collaborative.

The office analysis began in 2020 pre-pandemic. As the year went on, some aspects of the project needed to be re-evaluated. Working from home has changed our perspective of what a work environment means. The criteria for our new space challenged us to not only align with our core values as a design collaborative but also to think deeper into why we come to the office in the first place.

  • We will come back to the office after a year of having a home workspace that for some people was a reflection of their personalities and personal work styles, and for others was a challenge to carve out as a productive environment.
  • Many struggled to set boundaries with the lack of structure defining work and home, previously set by such rituals that commuting brought. Some chose to come into the office to help more concretely define work time and workspace separately.
  • When we needed to collaborate, we reached out and connected using digital tools and technology when we could not meet in person.
  • We were missing the seamless flow of knowledge sharing and informal mentorship moments that being together in the office brings

As we go back to the office, flexibility in space type based on various task needs will be desired, and a simple fixed desk is not always the answer. We will want the office landscape to enhance our workstyles and knowledge sharing along with embracing our community's personality, much like our home reflects our personality.

The Plan

The plan for Bergmeyer’s refresh was adjusted over the course of 2020. Rooms we originally thought would be small team rooms needed to become and retain remote meeting capabilities, set-up with branded elements to reflect our design collaborative community for those who were joining us remotely.

Medium and large conference rooms needed more overt branding for a proper remote presence for multi-person zoom meetings. We knew that how we worked was changing in ways that would stick. Those that did come into the office on a semi-regular basis did so to meet needs that working remotely wasn't capable of providing, including:

  • Face-to-face collaboration
  • Facile ideation with teammates and clients
  • Working from home is sometimes distracting and coming into the office gave some the chance to deeply focus on the tasks at hand.
  • Better branded environment for remote meetings and interviews with clients and external collaborators.
  • Access to tools and materials that are not easily available to work with at home
  • Better opportunities for knowledge sharing and mentorship in a more equitable and seamless manner.
  • We are a community of designers that engage and learn from our peers who work in a variety of ways, on equally different things. Being in the office physically further enriches the community we thrive in, bringing us together in a more seamless platform that inspires connection, learning, and idea generation.

Events over the past year have emphasized for us that our people and our community are significantly important.

Our office re-fresh will need to enhance these experiences as well as give us the tools and spaces for our new work styles and platforms.

As one enters Bergmeyer’s office, a gallery art wall will have project images, curated art, and employee contributions – reinforcing Bergmeyer’s collaborative values.

Open seat and meet options that are comfortable, inviting, support collaboration and knowledge sharing, and function as alternative workspaces. Open meeting spaces are more visible and therefore more frequently utilized, creating more opportunities for an equitable knowledge-sharing environment.

In conclusion, our community is the driving purpose to why many will return to the workplace and bring us back together. Our future space will further reflect the stories of our people, projects, and community as a design collaborative, and offer a shared space celebratory of our culture.

Our togetherness will enhance wellness, mentorship and strengthen mental health. Flexibility in where and when we work will ease anxiety and transitioning back into the office environment.

Most importantly, the visibly shared contributions of our community will be embraced alongside the benefits being in an office brings.

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