How do you solve today’s problems without interfering with tomorrow’s goals?
By implementing single solutions that address multiple possible outcomes. That is the essence of Future-proofing. Never has the importance of this kind of long-term thinking been more evident than this past year.
As a case study, office layouts make the perfect example. For several years leading up to the pandemic, companies around the world enthusiastically embraced the “open concept” office because it had every short-term advantage one could ask for. But that short-term focus left companies inflexible and vulnerable.
Step 1: Figure Out What Went Wrong
“Barriers to communication were removed,” noted many enthusiastic team leaders from behind the closed doors of their still-private offices. That, as much as anywhere, is where the faults in the open-concept office begin to reveal themselves. The choice to put people into that kind of workspace was almost always made by people who didn’t have to work there, people who still had their own offices and therefore couldn’t experience the many frustrations of warehouse-style offices.
Though many people defend open concept offices because they believe they increase collaboration, research from Harvard University published by the Royal Society of London has found that the exact opposite actually happens. The researchers note that “contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly,” by about 70% when offices became an open plan. “In short,” the research concludes that “rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”
On a psychological level, forced collaboration and the removal of privacy and structure aren’t compatible with human social preferences or productivity. This leads us to the biggest issue with open floor plans: lack of Neurodiversity. A totally homogenous workspace can’t possibly accommodate the many preferences, needs, and abilities of a complex workforce.
To be a competitive, modern business means embracing Neurodiversityas well as heterogeneous thought and work patterns. The one-size-fits-all approach of open concept offices simply cannot accommodate those needs. Offices that planned for a neurologically diverse future also protected themselves from a pandemic that no one knew was coming. Just one example of how making decisions with the future in mind can provide unexpected benefits.
Step 2: Act to Solve Multiple Problems with Single Solutions
Scientific research, the empirical analysis of open floor plan offices over the last year, and the need to maintain neurodiversity in corporate culture all make it clear that the warehouse-style office is a relic of the past. So, what’s next?
It’s clear that neither permanent walls nor open-concept offices are viable solutions moving forward. One need look no further than Muraflex to see how flexible workspace solutions enable companies to not only survive but to thrive as more rigid competitors struggle in the face of rapid changes. Our offices are the proving grounds for the wall and workspace innovations that allow Muraflex clients to excel. Whether it’s self-opening and closing glass walls like the EXPO 2 that can transform a space in seconds, or walls that can be opaque or crystal clear with the touch of a button, demountable glass walls by Muraflex offer the best of all worlds.
Meticulously developed and engineered materials allow walls to offer the privacy and sound protection of permanent walls, while also allowing for the natural light and openness of wall-less spaces. Best of all, the walls aren’t permanent and can be moved as your business grows and changes. Compromise isn’t necessary.
This same multi-purpose solution mindset reaches far beyond the walls of your offices. Everything from technology to HR practices to training and management should be designed beyond the needs of the moment. Business solutions function best as swiss-army knives, rather than as hammers.
Step 3: Reevaluate
The constant loop of looking at your performance, taking in new evidence, acting, then evaluating the effectiveness of your decisions is how success is built. The solutions Muraflex designed for others, allowed the company itself to function safely with hardly any downtime. As soon as it became clear that the pandemic would go global, Muraflex was ready to safely produce protective screen technology for essential businesses, hospitals, and workplaces. That foresight and rapid response allowed Muraflex to avoid a single Covid-related layoff and allowed for the continued growth of the company, even in a year of constant international turmoil.
It’s not that Muraflex predicted the pandemic. It’s merely the result of an engineering and design philosophy that pushes constant revision and refinement. Muraflex spends enormous effort understanding the evolving needs of our clients and partners, which means we’re often developing solutions that have applications even we can’t always predict.
Demountable glass walls make sense from a cost perspective, from a health perspective, from a mental health perspective, from a quality-of-life perspective, and from a productivity perspective. Five problems addressed with a single solution. It’s hard to predict what problems your business will face in the coming years, but the peace of mind you get knowing that your current solutions meet multiple challenges is worth almost as much as the competitive advantage you get by creating a workplace that recognizes neurodiversity is the key to thriving in a modern world.
The only constant is change and businesses built to adapt are built to last.