For the past several years we have watched as industry after industry has disrupted and forced to evolve. The retail sector has been rocked by Amazon, the hotel sector by Airbnb, and the taxi service by Uber and Lyft. But there has also been disruption in the commercial real estate industry, thanks to coworking and now COVID-19. The whole world is asking a fundamental question “what is the future of work?” If we are myopic and focused too narrowly on addressing only the challenge COVID has presented us with regarding how and where people work, we will miss the bigger opportunity to address the real challenges we are facing today. We are being an opportunity to rethink things we thought we knew, address things we know weren’t working and imagine a better solution for work going forward.

Many will seek to explore what the impact on the places we work will be. Many will seek to understand what the new normal might be. But there is nothing “normal” about this time or the months ahead. And returning to the office of yesterday shouldn’t be what we strive for. We need to advance to a new ecosystem that addresses the challenges at hand. The work ecosystem of tomorrow needs to promote safety, health, wellbeing and reduce stress and burnout. We need to find a vaccine for climate change. We need to design spaces with intent and purpose and reduce under-utilized, inflexible office space. We need to strive to create places that promote inclusivity, social connectivity, and equity. We need to do better and we have an opportunity to do so.

At HOK we encourage everyone to start that exploration from a place of knowledge. We believe the environments should align with the specific needs of the occupants. We believe our role is to help educate our clients about the benefits of different scenarios and solutions to ensure spaces are tailored to create the right experience and the right environments.

At HOK we believe that when the art and the science of design come together, we can create powerful solutions that address the emerging needs of today and the unknowns of tomorrow. We are committed to designing spaces that are not only environmentally sustainable, but address the health, safety, and wellbeing of the occupants.

We need to embrace the opportunity to address the disruption being brought forth and proactively rethinking how we can best serve our clients, companies, and the workforce. We need to innovate and evolve. If we fail to seize the moment and realize the shifts in the market and user demands that were already occurring and are on the horizon so we don’t waste the opportunity this situation is affording us.

Photo: Shiseido NYC Headquarters © ERIC LAIGNEL, courtesy of HOK