3 solutions for the post-COVID administrative office

Take time to reimagine these workspaces with consideration for the people who rely on them.
Joanna Terry

When students were sent home from campus, so were a lot of administrative employees that needed to keep a then-barren institution ready for the return to class. Some people stayed onsite, enjoying the extra space available in the others’ absence. When we came back, the race for space took on a whole new meaning: how do we solve the problems caused by a lackluster administrative office?

It’s easy to forget the employees who are working behind the scenes to keep your institution running smoothly. These areas usually look like a traditional office space so it’s easy to stay stagnant and “make it work” while funds are invested elsewhere. Take time to reimagine these workspaces with consideration for the people who rely on them.

Redecorate the Space

Problem: The office could use a little facelift. We put a lot of energy into making sure that a lot of student spaces are up to date in amenities but also in style. While this centers around unions, lobbies, sporting facilities, and areas that encourage enrollment, it’s often less of a concern for offices that house general employees.

Solution: As the kids say, it’s time to rethink the vibe. It’s not just putting lipstick on a pig—small updates to the interior design are a quick fix to make the workspace feel worth working in. Don’t worry about the latest trends. Impressive lobbies, calming workstations, and exciting meeting spaces are easily enhanced with a fresh coat of paint and lighting that strays away from dull fluorescents or yellowed panels. This is a great opportunity to work in your school’s colors, interesting photos of the campus, or wall art created by students.

If you’re making a larger investment in your administrative space, replace office furniture that looks dated, has experienced damage, or could be replaced by something more useful. This goes for any area from the entryway to the workstation. Look for furnishings that are built to last in designs that have serious staying power no matter what the latest trends say. Durable construction is close to future-proof when you invest in materials that have been tested and rated to handle rigorous use such as laminate that won’t scratch or stain.

Reintroduce Privacy

Problem: Too close for comfort.

It’s a similar story—there’s limited space for administrators, private offices become shared by two to four people, workspaces are cramped, and everybody is suddenly captive by the others’ workday noises. Video chats are more popular than ever and sometimes headphones just don’t cut it.

Solution: Separate the silence and noise.

Not every meeting needs a 12-person table in a conference room with all the bells and whistles. In the age of cramped workspaces, smaller meeting rooms are a way to get employees out of their shared offices and into a room that’s made for a quick chat or scheduled worktime.

These rooms aren’t a rarity on campus. Libraries often have smaller study spaces that accommodate four or so people, some of which have a reservation system that ensures that it’s easy to schedule a meet up in advance. Applying this same concept to a staff-centered space can split sprawling conference rooms in two with little effort. Make sure there’s enough rooms built out for unplanned conversations or a single employee on a Zoom call. Lesser used private offices are just the right size, in case some employees stayed remote and left their old spaces vacant.

Enhance Technology

Problem: We went from standing still to Zooming around. Even if the volume isn’t cranked, somebody is going to speak up and suddenly half of a conversation will fill the air. And after WFH, we’re all toting around laptops from meeting to meeting without an easy way to share information.

Solution: Add select tech that’s right for the challenge. Those remaining large spaces need a proportionate screen, clear microphone, and a central video camera to keep everybody immersed in the meeting. Smaller spaces need ample outlets or USB ports to stay charged up and ready to go. Take stock of the must-haves, big wants, and nice-to-haves that can fit within your budget. This is the IT department’s time to shine, and it’ll be great to have them working to set your office up for success.

Physical space and employee wellness are irrevocably tied. Taking care of the office is an important step in the journey toward creating a space that changes students’ lives. If we feel good at work, we do good work, which is a contagious feeling that lifts everybody up.

Joanna Terry, is the director of healthcare space planning at National Business Furniture

More from UB

Most Popular