GUEST COLUMN: We don’t need to be told what ’˜the new normal’ is, we all have the ability to define it

Joe Dunbar, senior account exec at Diversified says we don’t need to be told what ‘the new normal’ is, we all have the ability to define what it is so that it best suits our needs.

‘The new normal’ is a phrase I’d be happy never to hear again, but I’m sure the next time I open a web browser or look at the news on my phone I won’t be able to escape it.

I have been seeing it everywhere, sweeping declarations in favour of or against all of the trends that dominated our pre-Covid-19 workplaces. I have seen a variety of predictions on the future of huddle spaces and open offices. In the higher education market, virtually every classroom has been converted to distance learning at an incredible pace.

In the sports entertainment market there are no fans, which means there is no one to read the (absurd) beer prices on the digital signage or cheer along replays on that incredible new dv-LED display. Everyone everywhere is seeing trends flipped on their sides as priorities have shifted drastically.

At first, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was so frustrating about all of these proclamations. As I pondered, it hit me: no one is giving their prediction of what the new normal will be, they’re giving their prediction of what the new normal won’t be by simply supporting the best current alternative. We’re approaching it from the wrong angle; right now, every company has the opportunity to determine what the ‘new normal’ will be for themselves and can leave the old rules behind.

To all the companies, you should not care what the new normal for workplaces in general will be. You should be concerned with what you want your new normal in the workplace to be. Most companies must continually change their business practices to suit the future so why not build a future that best suits your needs, new and old alike?

You get to decide what attitudes and practices will make the cut as you face decisions that will shape your own new normal in the workplace. Your workplace redesign starts at the intersection of safety and feedback. We are beginning to have an idea of the safety guidelines we will need to accommodate, so that leaves feedback. How many people in your office, right now, got to provide input on the space that they work in on a daily basis?

To all my industry colleagues, we can work with these companies and aligned trades
to redesign and construct workplaces that are cleaner and safer for physical health as well as mental health. We can take this redesign as a challenge to make spaces that are flexible for multiple functions and objectives and that accommodate a variety of personalities and work habits. We can keep only the parts that users have liked the most and fill the gaps with solutions informed by good data captured from those users.

Ultimately, we are all the users of these systems. Technology has allowed us the opportunity to think on a scale larger than any of us have ever imagined; if we can understand each other’s needs then we can reshape the world to make the ‘new normal’ better for everyone.

I am asking you, my industry colleagues, to consider the implications of the decisions
we make in terms of design and specifications. It’s not about building mouse traps that “ooh and ahh’ but about facilitating happy, healthy, and productive spaces for people to build their careers and forge professions. What lies in front of us is the chance to positively impact the everyday lives of millions of people who will use our solutions.