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Cook Medical has been awarded the WELL Silver Certification for both its Hong Kong and Thailand offices, which encompass all 10 elements of an excellent office environment. Given the current expansion of its Singapore office, which also aims to meet all of these criteria, Jean-Marc Creissel, Vice President and Director of Asia-Pacific, Cook Medical, provides tried-and-tested advice for companies who wish to innovate and be part of the change in creating the ideal office environment for everyone.

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With nearly every aspect of our lives being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have had to adjust to the “new normal” and overcome unexpected battles over the past year, particularly with regards to work. The past year has caused a reckoning amongst business leaders across the APAC region, with many now reflecting on what valuable lessons can be learned from the forced remote office experiment. Indeed, employers are now tasked with a new challenge; how do we develop office spaces suitable for a post-COVID world? There is much to consider.

As Cook Medical prepares for our own employees across Asia to begin returning to the office for the first time in months, there are many things to be taken into consideration, particularly given the length of time people have been working from home and the consequences of this. What new habits have people formed and which boundaries need to be re-established?

What are the positives gained from working at home which can be adapted into an office space and what are the challenges – even fatigues – which need to be corrected?

With many new questions being posed, Cook Medical, a recipient of the Caring Company certification in Hong Kong, has tasked itself in leading the exploration into new ways of working together in 2021 to create safe and collaborative office spaces, taking into consideration the needs of all employees.

Having been awarded the WELL Silver Certification for both our Hong Kong and Thailand offices, which encompasses all ten elements of an excellent office environment and given the current expansion of the Singapore office, which also aims to meet all of this criteria, Cook Medical can provide tried and tested advice for companies who wish to innovate and be part of the change in creating the ideal office environment for everyone.

As a starting point, it’s important to address the issue surrounding space. APAC is notorious for small apartments, making for less than ideal working stations, especially among Millennials, many of whom recently revealed they could not afford accommodation with the space and amenities vital for successful homeworking.

With workers across the region heading back to the office, many can celebrate returning to a larger open space that offers plenty of light, a modern look, and an agile environment that fosters teamwork, community, and a sense of connection between teams.

How should leaders create the blueprint for their new working landscapes, and how can they seize on the opportunity to redesign with the needs of employees in mind?

Let’s start by creating workspaces that can accommodate both solo workers as well as collaborators, allowing them to work side-by-side and host meetings.

Companies that really want to drive creativity and collaboration can consider setting up meeting spaces that can be transformed into an open space or a classroom-style setup. Another innovation can include splitting the office into two sides— with the front office area featuring meeting spaces and a pantry, while the back end is the general office space with additional meeting rooms and the discussion lounge.

As we make forward strides in a post-COVID work setting, space will ultimately matter more than it used to.

Now comes the question: how can employers provide office spaces that offer safe wellness facilities and activities as we move past the pandemic?

For starters, by offering a myriad of services under one roof. Companies now have the opportunity to make their employees lives easier and errands that usually take place outside of the office more convenient. Businesses can consider turning their offices into a one-stop-shop for colleagues, offering in-office activities such as yoga, massage services, break rooms with games, local trainers, and even chefs so everyone can skip the crowded lunchtime queue.

Other ways in which to maximise the office space are to consider building rest areas, which allow for recuperation, or optimise private spaces and create study areas for employees upgrading their education.

Of course, each wellness activity needs to keep hygiene and safety in mind, with frequent office deep cleans and capacity limits on in-office benefits.

If businesses are keen to create collaborative spaces, the first step is to conceptualise the area alongside their employees. Leaders can show that they’re committed to their team’s needs by setting up a series of surveys to determine what the disconnect between the office environment and employee needs are.

Take, for example, young mothers and fathers, who may now, for the first time, be separated from their newborns or toddlers after a year of working from home. Consequently, nursing stations and day-care facilities maybe something more and more employees request in the future.

Additionally, employees with impairments shouldn’t be overlooked as we try to advance employee engagement. A multitude of programmes can assist employees who are disadvantaged with poor eyesight, for example, such as flux, a computer system that matches indoor lighting; Time Out, an application that reminds employees to take breaks and re-energise; or Pangobright, a screen dimming utility.

As we redesign and restructure the office space, functions that were once neglected must be addressed. The changes need to actively improve the lives of employees in order to boost productivity.

One solution, which answers many of the needs discussed above, is to invest in a space that has everything under one roof and is open to all, as demonstrated by Cook Medical’s new office in Singapore. In designing offices such as this, with features such as open space, classroom-style setups, areas for wellness programme activities, phone discussion rooms and private rooms for resting or breastfeeding, the office has the opportunity to be an ecosystem with endless potential.

It’s important to consider the small things and not allow anything to be overlooked. Making workstations height-adjustable is just one example of a small yet vital change, so employees can choose to stand or sit as they work.

New workspace designs have infinite possibilities. In order for the modern office to prove successful, the key lies in listening to feedback given from employees on what they need from the space in question.

It’s important for companies to be forward-thinking when it comes to designing a space that fits with not only the needs of current employees, but those of the future. Collaboration between employers and the work force is vital, and only then will you produce a working environment which is mutually beneficial to all involved.

Photo / Provided [featuring the author, Jean-Marc Criessel]

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