Preparing for the Now, Near and Far

For many organizations, the return of people to the office will happen in waves and differ across geographies, as they bring segments of their workforce safely back into the office. Our Senior Interior Designer, Jenny Garda, shares how she’s adapted her design thought process for our own space as well as for our customers during the return to the office.

Q: Can you share your role with LOTH, and your area of focus?

A: I am an interior designer and Design Team Lead at the LOTH Cincinnati office. My area of focus at LOTH is New Business Development, however, I have years of industry experience in everything ranging from health care to education to retail to worship spaces.

Q: How are you looking at “post COVID” design?

A: Post COVID design is evolving. It’s about looking at the entirety of a space through a different lens. Normally, as designers, we are governed by codes that have been in place for years. Now, we are creatively imagining spaces to meet different requirements. COVID has provided us the opportunity to re-evaluate how people move through spaces, how collaboration can be different through technology and creative planning and how workspaces can be safer while providing quality design and anticipating a return to normalcy or a “new normal.”

Q: What strategies have you taken in the Work Studio to promote distancing and safety:

A: The 6’ social distancing strategy is the basis for most of what we have done within our own work studio. Planning for 6’ “bubbles” around individual heads down work areas, allowing for spaces to “breathe” more in collaborative areas; where we would have typically had higher head counts, and providing opportunities and protocols for maintaining a clean environment. These are all positive steps in creating healthier environments and we are sharing what we have learned with our customers. Probably my favorite thing about working for LOTH (aside from my amazingly talented team) is the relationship with Steelcase. The workplace research Steelcase invests in is inspiring. Our ability to utilize that research within a work environment is exciting. And, true to form, Steelcase didn’t miss a beat with COVID and researching how to create the safest possible work environments.

Rendering of Patio

Q: What are your number one concerns when designing in the New Workplace?

A: I don’t know that I have concerns about designing in the New Workplace… more questions, thoughts, and ideas. I hope any good designer would look at this as an opportunity to grow, adapt and be creative! Sharing our creativity is what we do as designers. Designing in this new environment is no different, it’s just an added layer of complexity to an already complex process. What are the business drivers for change… now add COVID. Change is hard and in many cases fear is involved. Creating spaces where change is being prescribed for people is also difficult. But, if we involve a team, and make change a discussion; fear turns to curiosity and curiosity turns to excitement.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone tackling the Now, Near, and Far of the New Workplace?

A: Breathe. Unfortunately and understandably, words like Pandemic, Social Distancing and COVID make us all a little panicked. It’s really hard to know where to start. Now, near and far is an idea that is not new or related only to the COVID environment or design. It’s a mind-set that challenges people to consider all 3 dimensions at one time. And it’s hard!  Very much like the creative ability to think in 3 dimensions when designing a space. It’s important to have a plan of action. Looking at this concept through a post COVID lens is relatively simple; applying it gets complicated. Now… we need to make sure everyone is safe. Near… what adjustments can we make quickly and efficiently, to insure safety? Far… how do we translate these lessons to our future safety? When it comes to the Now, near and Far of the New Workplace, my best advice is to call LOTH! Our experience, research and the way we see things will allow us to help our customers navigate it all.

Three Key Considerations for Post-Covid Design

  1. Density: the number of people per sq. ft/m
  2. Geometry: how the furniture is arranged
  3. Division: adding screens, panels or barriers