Me, We and Free: A Plan for All Zones in Your Workspace

As many of us gradually return to the office with guidelines in place, we hope this information serves as a look toward the future. Our team at HON is here to support you through the transitions and help you look forward to productive collaboration in all forms.

We recently wrote about the concept of third spaces and how they fit into a reimagined office environment.

While COVID-19 has changed a lot of how we think about the office—from furniture to design to safety protocols, and just about everything in between—among the constants is the need to provide a workspace for all types of work.

Whether you’re a small to mid-size company or a larger operation, you likely have a wide range of preferred work styles among your employees. As the world has embraced remote work (even prior to the pandemic) and flexible work options, offering a dynamic office layout is strongly recommended.

What do we mean by “dynamic”?

The HON team defines “zones” in the workplace, and how work, socializing and other activities throughout the day fit into those zones. We call them Me, We and Free zones, and they cater to different preferences in terms of work style and work setting.

“From a product development standpoint, we’re thinking about customer usage of our products,” said Troy Williams, Sr. Director, Product Marketing at The HON Company. “We’ve thought about different spaces, either personal spaces or collaborative (open or closed) spaces, that promote flexibility and choice.”

In this article, we’ll talk about what workers expect from each of the zones, and also how COVID-19 has changed how we structure and clean them.

 

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A Space for Individual Work

The “me” zone is what it sounds like: a space for one person to work.

One misconception, though, is that a “me” zone is an assigned desk, closed office or workstation. Many offices are introducing open, assigned or unassigned “me” spaces—which were growing in popularity prior to the pandemic. Remote work (or a split between remote and on-site) meant that fewer workers were spending full work days and work weeks in the office, making an open space more appealing.

“These could be panel-wrapped or even open benching workstations,” Williams said. “When you have people coming in and out of the office, sometimes with irregular schedules, that ‘me’ space can be achieved whether it’s an assigned or unassigned station. People appreciate that flexibility.”

As the need to provide proper distancing has risen, HON has responded with products that are available quickly to support it.

“One big thing is providing surface-mounted screen protection, whether it’s glass, metal or acrylic,” Williams said. “It’s important to provide that protection and privacy for users. If you have panels that wrap a workstation, the height of panels over the last 5–7 years has come down, but we are now hearing about a strong desire to add stack-on protection to existing panel systems. Customers are asking for simple add-ons, and we’re working on solutions to add privacy and take the protection back up higher.”

Rethinking & Redesigning Collaborative Spaces

Though the way we collaborate has changed in the era of COVID-19, teams still want a way to work together if they’re in the office.

The “we” zone is arguably the most important in the workspace.

“We think of ‘we’ as a combination of multiple things,” Williams said. “Most conventionally, it’s about having ‘we’ spaces that are big, open and collaborative. Maybe they have lounge tables, different furniture options and seating options. Also, we think of ‘we’ spaces as conference rooms that are enclosed, and oftentimes are just tables and chairs.

“Whether the space is large or small, we’re able to make it collaborative and safe, which is so important right now.”

The HON team has launched several products in the last few months aimed at making collaborative spaces safe, cleanable and easy to maintain long term (and there are more on the way).

“Verse is a non-structural panel that is designed to separate space, and it’s become very popular,” Williams said. “If you have a few chairs that need separation, those types of products that sit right on the floor are highly popular right now and will continue to be.

“We also offer hand sanitizer holders that can mount on the wall or on a panel, so if you have multiple panels in a workstation, you can attach sanitizer right to a panel so it’s easy to access and readily available.”

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Creating Space to Work, Gather or Relax

“Free” zones are, in most instances, unassigned and open workspaces.

They can also serve as communal areas and gathering spaces. “Free” zones don’t have defined purposes as either work or community spaces, as those using the space have the option to use it as they wish.

But despite the “free” zone’s nature as an open, gathering-style space, companies must ensure adherence to CDC guidelines and proper distancing.

“Our customers are seeking products, particularly in this style of space, that offer significant separation and protection— particularly if the “free” zone is an unassigned workstation,” Williams said.

In the near future, we’ll be releasing new products to protect both your employees and the workspace, including metal surface-mounted screens (front and side), “sneeze guards” and acrylic screens, PPE stands that can hold multiple products and hands-free door openers.

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A Plan for All Zones & All Styles of Work

Three key considerations for each zone in your workspace are social distancing, cleanability and space division.

In collaborative spaces, there will be fewer chairs and they should be spaced (at minimum) 6–10 feet apart. Private offices that typically have 1–2 guest chairs are moving to just one, provided that a single chair can be properly distanced from the desk.

Cleanability is crucial. The HON team has worked hard on this; the material of the product is as important—and now, perhaps more so—as the product itself. In response to a “huge spike” in requests for cleanable fabrics, as Williams noted, we’ve introduced those in addition to other cleanable materials like glass, wood and metal.

Space division and privacy have an impact on workstations, and we anticipate this will drive the desire for non-structural space division, even in a collaborative area.

Whether you’re updating your office zones to better support a safe workspace or incorporating Me, We and Free zones to serve a changing workforce, HON has the products and expertise to help. Learn more at hon.com.