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As companies start to return to some kind of normal, they are taking a range of approaches to working location and space utilization. Neil Schneider, design director for IA Interior Architects in Chicago, has helped lead office designs including the McDonald’s headquarters, Google, JLL, Sterling Bay HQ, BMO and others. He says space design needs to be user-centered, helping workers feel safe, comfortable and connected. Emphasizing the need for flexibility, Schneider described four main, developing topics of conversation: mentoring, sustained focus, dynamic collaboration and community-building. For companies that have been thoughtful in designing work environments, their investment in activity-based work environments and agile flow is paying off, but offices designed around density could struggle more. Employee attitudes about coming back to work in person vary significantly, even within age groups. “As leaders, we need to be understanding of complications of working in alternate environments and people being on alternate work schedules,” he says. Schneider also argues that as older Americans see their retirement savings diminished, more employees may want to return to work in a physical environment. “Companies should not assume they have the 20-year answer on what the future of the workforce looks like, though they should also not assume that offices, convening colleagues and company spaces as a cultural asset will not matter. It all will,” explains Schneider.

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