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The innovation deficit: The importance of the physical office post-COVID-19
After more than a year of dealing with the fallout from COVID-19, much has been learnt about the benefits of working from home. There is plenty of evidence for people wishing to retain at least some of the flexibility that working from home has brought post-pandemic. What has also been shown, however, is that a well-designed office is more often better than home at supporting some types of activity, especially those involving socialisation and collaboration with others. This paper takes stock of what the office is good for and argues that without opportunities to meet in unplanned ways face-to-face, innovation, the lifeblood of many businesses, is at risk. In so doing, a different way to think about the post-pandemic office is proffered — one that is designed to realise the benefits that being physically co-present can bring and thus avoid the so-called innovation deficit. By using this way of thinking, this paper concludes with an evaluation of how some organisations are already ‘reimagining’ their post-pandemic workplaces.
The full article is available to subscribers to the journal.
Kerstin Sailer is Professor in the Sociology of Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, and director and co-founder of brainybirdz, a think tank and consultancy which brings scientific thinking into workplace design. An architect by training, her research interests combine processes and practices of work with the architectural layout of buildings such as offices, hospitals and schools.
Matt Thomas is assistant professor in the department of Strategy and International Business at the University of Birmingham. He joined brainybirdz in 2019.
Ros Pomeroy is co-founder and non-executive chair of brainybirdz. With an MBA from London Business School and an MSc from the Bartlett School of Architecture, during her 40-year career she has worked in business strategy and organisational development in the media and telecoms sectors, before becoming a consultant in the field of workplace science in 2010.
Rosica Pachilova is an architect by training and joined brainybirdz in 2019. Rosica received her PhD from UCL where she investigated how hospital ward layouts influenced work processes and communication patterns of healthcare providers and how this affected the quality of care received by patients.