Kay Sargent presents “Work in a COVID Era”
At the recent Almo Pro AV E4Evolution event, which this year took place all online, Kay Sargent, Senior Principal Director of WorkPlace at design, architecture, engineering, and planning firm HOK, illuminated the ways in which the pandemic has forced a change in the way people all over the world get through their working day. Taking these changes as a jumping off point, Sargent argued that regardless of what we’ve all been through over the past year, the concept of the “office” is antiquated, and the time is ripe for a reimagination of the workplace ecosystem. “COVID has been an accelerator to address issues that were there but ignored,” she said, referring to workers’ levels of stress, burnout, anxiety, and wellbeing.
Shining a spotlight on existing and exponentially accelerating problems can help organizations and society navigate the current landscape as well as prepare for the future. Among Sargent’s many suggestions are retraining and upscaling the workforce to embrace the concept of a hybrid workplace that includes working from home and at “spokes” and “hubs” that enable the type of social interaction, bonding, and connection that promotes healthy collaboration and mentorship among workers. “Those who are always remote or never remote tend to be the least engaged,” she said.
Rejecting the notion of a “return to the office,” Sargent stresses the need for innovation and evolution concerning health, safety, and wellbeing; remote work; purpose of place; business resiliency; and environment, social, and governance (ESG) policies. Above all, she encourages a variety of options and choices and a formalization of policies and procedures that capitalize on this essential “redesign,” which cover everything from technology solutions to workers’ neurodiversity and empowerment to a shift in the concept of an organization’s needs that prioritizes access over ownership.
“We’re on a path of accelerated exponential change,” said Sargent. “On the far horizon are biometrics, robotics, augmentation, holograms, sabbaticals for refresh and rethink, and more. If we don’t think big and address the problems we have, and that we know are on the horizon, we could lose the opportunity.”
View Sargent’s engaging presentation here for more on this topic and her many innovative proposed solutions.