What’s Next?: How the design industry will support health, safety and well-being as businesses navigate the new normal.

 

“AT SCHROEDER SOLUTIONS, WE UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF DESIGN TO TRANSFORM ENVIRONMENTS.”

 




Thank you to our esteemed panel of design industry professionals:
  • Matthew Rosenquist – Senior Interior Designer – Schroeder Solutions
  • Cailey Sanchez– Interior Designer – Schroeder Solutions
  • Jenny Rebholz – Principal – PushPoint Marketing
  • Aga Artka – Interior Designer – Independent Designer
  • Libby Castro – Director of Design and Business Development – Workshop Architects
  • Wendy Redeker – Facilities Designer – Greenheck
  • Michelle Kempen – Interior Designer, Associate – Kahler Slater
  • Ariel Steuer – Interior Designer – The Kubala Washatko Architects
  • Catherine Richardson – Interior Designer/Territory Manager – Global Furniture Group
  • Michelle Mintzlaff – Interior Designer/Territory Manager – Global Furniture Group
  • Alyssia Magnuson– Interior Designer/Territory Manager – The Ruder Group



INTRODUCTION

Schroeder Solutions is in the business of creating spaces that work. Since opening our doors in 1988, we have continued to add products and services to better serve our clients. As we look to help businesses navigate the new normal beyond COVID-19, our commitment to providing safe and healthy environments is stronger than ever. The varied questions many industries are asking center around the contemplation of—What’s Next?

  • How do we bring people safely back to work?
  • How do we conduct business and hold meetings?
  • How do we educate?
  • How do we adapt our business so it can thrive under new circumstances?
  • How can we help people connect and thrive in this new landscape?

Business owners, leadership teams, community leaders, and the list goes on, are all trying to determine next steps. Is there a right answer? No one knows for sure. At Schroeder Solutions, we understand the power of design to transform environments. We have history of using design to improve productivity, efficiency, communication, team building, as well as attraction and retention.

We know design professionals are phenomenal problem solvers, so our design team connected with a panel of local design clients, colleagues and vendor partners to contemplate “What’s Next.” We wanted to know what changes, attitudes and expectations they are seeing in the corporate, health care/senior living, education and hospitality/retail markets. Together we explored how design will impact our new normal in built environments.

We hope these insights give you a sense of hope and will encourage more conversations and new design practices that support safe and healthy environments for us all.


SUMMARY

While our panel discussion explored a variety of market sectors, there were overarching themes that represent the big picture of design for the coming months and years:

  • Health & Safety
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility & Choice
  • Sustainable & Smart Design
  • Human Connection

 

Health & Safety

The number one concern for business leaders, employees and consumers is health and safety. Business owners have to evaluate their environment and make sure it is a safe place for their employees to return to and work in, as well as ensure safety for clients and guests.

As designers help business owners contemplate reintegrating their workforce, it presents a number of challenges on an office by office basis. Some environments that were designed to encourage collaboration and interaction, now require solutions that address social distancing and means of separation—completely undermining the original intent. Other workplaces with more enclosed private offices need to address wayfinding and logistical challenges. No matter the existing conditions, the end goal is centered around providing a safe and healthy work environment that supports bringing people back together in an office setting.

Due to health and safety concerns in the healthcare industry, design practices have faced more rigorous guidelines and design solutions are often evidenced based, in other words, backed by research. These practices will now support and benefit the design of other environments outside of healthcare.

 

 

“IN  A RECENT SEMINAR, THE SPEAKER STATED THAT ‘BEST PRACTICES IN HEALTHCARE DESIGN ARE GOING TO BECOME HUMAN HEALTH BEST PRACTICES.’ AND THAT REALLY STUCK WITH ME,” says Wendy Redeker, facilities designer at Greenheck.

 

 

Adaptability

With the diagnosis, vaccination and long-term impact of COVID-19 still being researched, understood and evaluated, there seems to be a consensus that there will be two phases of design needed within the corporate world: Pre-Vaccine and Post-Vaccine. This is why adaptability is critical now more than ever. Clients are taking measures to create processes and procedures to address the world as it is now, pre-vaccine, and may consider reduced measures once things begin to “normalize,” post-vaccine.

 

 

“OUR CLIENTS SEEM TO BE SEEING THIS AS A MULTI-PHASE PROCESS, SLOWLY ADAPTING AS THINGS PROGRESS,” says Matthew Rosenquist, Senior Interior Designer at Schroeder Solutions. “THE ADAPTABILITY OF DESIGN SOLUTIONS IS KEY FOR BUSINESS LEADERS. THEY NEED TO CONSIDER FUNCTIONALITY, EMPLOYEE SAFETY AS WELL AS FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS.” 

 

 

Flexibility & Choice

Before the COVID-19 pandemic there were some businesses with remote teams and flexible work from home policies. However, there were also organizations that didn’t feel that type of work flexibility was feasible for their business success.

When #saferathome mandates were put into place, business leaders and employees rose to the challenge. Organizations adapted and found ways to remain efficient, productive and get work done. Technology plays a new role in keeping teams connected and communication lines open. These new work circumstances have also shed new light on home life and how to properly balance work and family responsibilities.

With this recent adaption, more and more professionals will want to work for companies that have more choice in how and where they work. Flexible work schedules and work environments will play a new role in the corporate world. The home office will continue to evolve as will team-oriented spaces. There will be many experiments with flexibility and choice in mind as this becomes a priority to the existing and incoming work force.

 

 

“ONE OF THE BIGGEST DESIGN APPLICATIONS WILL BE FLEXIBILITY. MORE FLEXIBILITY THAN EVER BEFORE. EMPLOYERS WILL NEED TO BEGIN TO TRUST EMPLOYEES TO BE PRODUCTIVE AND SUPPORT THEM IN GETTING WORK DONE, WHEREVER THAT MIGHT BE.” 

 

 

Sustainable & Smart Design

Sustainable design practices have evolved over several decades from a topic, to a trend, to simply best practices. Environmentally-friendly practices have also evolved over the last few years to include creating health and wellness focused environments. Instead of trends or practices advocated by some, the hope is that these will now be considered standard smart design practices as we move forward. We will need to consider all of the different elements needed to create environments that are healthy for people, mentally and physically, as well as better for the planet.

Sensorial stimulation is a crucial element to creating a great human experience. It is an aspect of human health and part of successful environmental design. Advances in technology may be the key to enhancing human experiences in the built environment as we will need to look for ways to reduce physical touch points.

 

 

“WE WILL NEED TO EXPLORE HOW TO CREATE STIMULATING DESIGN, WHEN HAVING TO REMOVE TOUCH,” says Ariel Steuer, interior designer for The Kubala Washatko Architects.

 

 

Human Connection

After keeping ourselves isolated and dealing with a pandemic where we don’t know who is or is not safe, design will need to help repair human connections. At home, people have developed their own sense of control and comfort. They determine who they connect with, when and where. This all changes once you think about returning to a larger working environment because that small sense of control is lost. Employers will need to find ways to manage this, and our role as designers will be to help them.

 

 

“CREATING TRUST AND RESPECT BETWEEN EMPLOYEE IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES THAT SOME COMPANY LEADERS HAVE SHARED WITH US,” says Cailey Sanchez, interior designer at Schroeder Solutions. “EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN COMFORT LEVEL WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON, SO IF EMPLOYERS CANNOT CREATE WAYS FOR EVERYONE TO RESPECT EACH OTHER’S DISTANCE, PEOPLE MAY LOSE TRUST IN COMING TO THE OFFICE.”

 

 

CONCLUSION

When we really think about it, health, safety, adaptability, flexibility, choice, sustainability, smart design and supporting human connection have been long-standing priorities for the modern work environment. The COVID-19 circumstances just added a new set of conditions, or challenges, for designers to consider when trying to accomplish these goals. The Schroeder Solutions Team is ready to rise to these new challenges as we continue our commitment to creating spaces that work.

 

 




Exploring the New Normal in Different Market Sectors

 

Below we address the market specific highlights from our panel discussion.  As each market faces their own set of challenges, the solutions will vary slightly from industry to industry.

 


CORPORATE

For a certain group of corporate environments, the workplace will become more of an accessory to the work-from-home workforce. So, designers will need to create environments that support and inspire people to come to work. Branding and amenities will only continue to grow in this new approach to office design.

“Employers, even traditional mindsets, are experiencing very quickly that their employees can be productive while working from home with flexible schedules.”

Wendy Redeker

Facilities Designer | Greenheck

  • Spaces designed for flexibility will be even more important now.
  • Work from home will be more prevalent.
  • Employers will need to begin to trust employees to be productive and support them in getting work done.
  • Technological solutions and advancements will continue to increase to support productivity, collaboration, communication and connectivity.
  • Designers will need to address more acoustical and technological challenges to create environments to support the increase in virtual interaction.
  • Employers and designers will need to think about creating environments that support technology throughout the entire office space as well as in employee homes.
  • With working from home more prevalent now, designers will need to think of creative ways to attract employees to the office.
  • As company leaders look to scale back on square footage for costing savings, designers will need to create more functional ancillary office space solutions.

“We were pretty convinced that person-to-person interaction is what developed business, but now since we’ve quickly adapted to a virtual approach, we have found the transition to doing business via technology was quite seamless.”

Libby Castro

Director of Design and Business Development | Workshop Architects

“New products are going to have to be introduced, as well as better technology, to support our new way, or better way of working.”

Catherine Richardson

Interior Designer/Territory Manager | Global Furniture Group

“Employers continually try to attract and retain, but now with people getting comfortable working from home, the workplace will need to be more attractive to draw people in.”

Michelle Kempen

Interior Designer, Associate | Kahler Slater

Think about:
  • As remote workers become more of a norm, what is the impact on workplace design?
  • What types of spaces will attract staff?
  • Why do team members need to come to the office, and how frequently?

HEALTHCARE I SENIOR LIVING

The future of healthcare design will continue to be a learning and ever-evolving experience. Corporate designers can take this opportunity to gain insight from healthcare and senior living providers. By understanding aspects of the built environment that were successes and failures during the pandemic, designers will have valuable information to increase their ability to innovate. A true collaboration in this area will help everyone create environments that support our changing world.

“Lots of procedural changes based on our experience with COVID-19 will result in changes to the interior environment. We need to make sure we continue to advance design towards a better goal moving forward, and not lose progress when things go back to normal. It will be important to continue to learn from these circumstances.”

Catherine Richardson

Interior Designer/Territory Manager | Global Furniture Group

  • While health and safety have always been a priority when designing healthcare and senior living environments, the coronavirus revealed product and space planning flaws that no one could have foreseen. We need to learn from this and collaborate and innovate to provide new, better solutions.
  • Collaboration with healthcare facilities and care providers will be essential to better supporting their environmental issues and procedures.
  • Design for behavioral health will need to be prioritized. Safe environments need to be provided for those who need additional mental care due to the impact of COVID-19 exposure and quarantine stress.
  • Technology and space planning for senior living needs to be readdressed in order to provide safe solutions for interaction. We need to prevent further isolation of our senior population while keeping them safe and healthy.

“We need to think about creating mobile products that can be used and moved to different environments. Maybe mobile products will create inspiration for “mobile hospitals” to be better prepared for situations like this.”

Alyssia Magnuson

Interior Designer/Territory Manager | The Ruder Group

 

Think about:
  • How do we learn from this pandemic to design and plan better healthcare environments to support both health emergencies and day-to-day healthcare operations?
  • How will product manufacturers develop solutions for the changing environments?
  • How do we continue to create stimulating and positive senior living environments for residents and families?

EDUCATION

Education is critical to equipping both our young children and young adults with a variety of valuable skills for their futures. In the past few years, we have seen innovative design solutions that have elevated educational environments. As we evaluate how to adapt school settings to address COVID-19 concerns, designers will need to help educators and parents create environments that support evolving teaching methods for in-person and virtual learning as well as means for maintaining safe social interactions.

“We will go back to more manageable class sizes—which may be more expensive, but can be better for our children, teachers and parents.”

Aga Artka

Interior Designer | Aga Artka Interior Design

  • Introducing more “touchless design” for the safety of everyone.
  • Schools will need to drastically change the way they operate.
  • With social development a critical component of early education, it will be important to balance creating safe environments with spaces that can still foster social interaction.
  • In higher education, designing for flexibility is key—similar to corporate environments. Schools will need to provide students options to learn through in-person classes and through technology.
  • Designers will be challenged to enhance safety in college environments while still supporting the culture and campus life that is a key factor in attracting and retaining students.

“How do we continue to create interaction and social growth for our early education students, who are just now, during this time, needing to be exposed to social interaction.”

Michelle Mintzlaff

Interior Designer/Territory Manager | Global Furniture Group

Think about:

  • As virtual learning becomes more prevalent, how will it impact educational environments?
  • How can schools and universities be designed to properly balance virtual and in-person learning while supporting connectivity and healthy social development.
  • With many people being dependent on public schools for food provision—and in a sense, child-care—how do we balance safety while still providing this service to families?
  • How can educational environments continue to support working parents as they adapt to their new schedules?

HOSPITALITY I RETAIL

The hospitality and retail industries are in the business of serving people, and mostly in large quantities. These markets need serious design attention to support the success of their interior environments. When we begin to think of shopping, pumping gas or sitting down at a restaurant, both designers and business owners will need to create ways for people to feel safe doing these things. Businesses will need to find solutions to draw people in while providing a sense of safety and comfort. They will also need to embrace technology and provide consumers with virtual options. Business success will depend on creating multiple ways for consumers to have great experiences—and enticing options that keep them coming back for more.

“Retail may begin to right-size their stores, like those in the Third-Ward of Milwaukee, that has a more curated selection in a smaller footprint, while still offering a larger selection online.”

Michelle Kempen

Interior Designer, Associate | Kahler Slater

  • Design will need to further support the brick-and-mortar retail experience to draw people in.
  • The large retail corporations, such as Walmart and Target, will continue to thrive, especially with their increasing online conveniences like curb-side pick-up. Other retailers will need more design support to come up with creative ways to market their product in stores and be successful.
  • Restaurants will need to do their best to create as few touch points as possible. Beyond temporary solutions, designers will play a role in helping these businesses create smart ways to do curb side orders, provide outdoor dining and safe interiors as well as implement healthy back of house processes.
  • Retail and hospitality can explore unique design features in exterior environments, like dining bubbles or domes, and separated experiences.
  • Gas stations and convenience stores may revisit old techniques, such as gas attendants, and find creative touchless ways to service clients.
Think about:
  • How innovative design and space planning solutions can help businesses find success in the COVID-influenced retail landscape?
  • How do we create products that support safe shopping and advocate healthy environments?
  • How will hospitality environments evolve to reinforce a sense of comfort and security, and how will they ensure safety through procedural implementations?

 

 


CONCLUSION

This pandemic, while devastating in many ways, has given the whole world an opportunity to slow down, look at the big picture and re-evaluate what is important. As designers, it is our job to help create environments that focus on what is important. With health and safety now being at the forefront, continuous health best practices will become a positive permanent change. Companies and businesses have been, and will continue to be, designed for adaptability and flexibility. Designers and manufacturers are inherently innovators, and this experience has inspired more innovations and a new level of sustainable and smart design practices. Most importantly, built environments will continue to foster human connection, just in new and innovative ways.

One of the biggest mistakes we could make is ignoring the opportunity we have to learn and create from this experience.  Rather, we should be compelled to encourage positive change moving forward! As designers, we have a unique opportunity to do that through built environments and human connection. It is time to recreate our future!

 

“We have gone so long and so far without a major design revolution, so this is it! This is our chance to create and innovate.”

Aga Artka

Interior Designer | Aga Artka Interior Design




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