Despite the continued popularity of remote and hybrid work, many corporations have adopted plans to build new headquarters, campuses and buildings, remaining convinced that employees need to return to the office to maintain high levels of productivity and feel connected to their company culture (or simply to control your workforce, depending on who you ask).

The first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters is slated to open in Arlington, Virginia, in the third quarter of this year (although construction of the second half has been delayed indefinitely). Apple is still planning a new campus in Durham, North Carolina. And while Google plans to shed leased office space, it still intends to break ground on a large office and residential project in San Jose this year.

But with employees well aware of—and often loving—their newfound ability to work from home, projects like this now have to meet new criteria: how to make the office a place where people—like you, in your hypothetical existence in Bethesda—at actually want to go, even if they don’t have to.

For now, the answer is to add design features and bonuses that tend to be more meaningful than those in the recent past before the pandemic. Out came open floor plans filled with a sea of ​​desks. Individual meeting spaces and flexible offices for one person. Designers like to talk about “amenity-rich environments,” referring not only to pool tables and office snacks, but also to more practical offerings like lavish private offices and meeting spaces, gyms, dentists, retail, and health care. children.

All of them are wrapped inside buildings that most often have natural light and outdoor space, are located in the city center, welcome the surrounding community at least on the ground floor, provide services that are not part of the traditional remit of employers, and offer flexible ways of working, not a row of tables. The total package, the architects say, should create a sense of comfort—even luxury—in the office that rivals being at home.

“Commuting needs to be more convenient than working from home for the workplace to make money on the road,” says Grant Canick, a partner and workplace consultant at architects Foster and Partners, which led the design of Apple’s Apple Park headquarters. “I call it corporate to comfortable,” says Brian Parker, studio head of interiors at Cooper Carry, the firm that designed the State Farm office campus in Georgia and was tapped to work on Microsoft’s potential headquarters in Atlanta before , as the plan was adopted. suspended.

Before the pandemic, office buildings and campuses were often built almost according to a formula, Parker says. The number of employees, the percentage of different types of jobs, and the projections for future growth in the number of staff were in the same direction; the other yielded the required number of tables and square feet. Function ruled form. Design work can even be boring.

According to this model, most offices were structured with about 80 percent of usable, functional desk space and 20 percent for conference rooms. Designers spent most of their time drawing floor plans with different iterations of desks and offices and corner conference rooms. Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for a third or even half of the entire desktop to go unused for part of the day, Kanick says. Companies that have managed to make intensive use of their space have often done so at the expense of making workers feel packed into an open floor plan.

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