Collaboration in a post-pandemic world

inclusivityWAs the world continues to evolve and the built environment responds to ever-changing challenges, one thing remains relevant: we as humans and designers need to create connecting points as we reinvent the spaces we inhabit. The workplace, whether in-person, remote, or a combination of both, impacts our perception of the world around us and helps us tap into a deeper meaning behind team collaboration, togetherness, and productivity. Both current and future workplaces must challenge us all to remain agile, prioritize people and create an unforgettable experience for the end user.

Designing a workplace that meets these challenges is one way to start a bigger project: designing collaboration itself. Designing for collaboration means designing for diversity and inclusion, recognizing a wide range of talents and skills. This has been an integral part of IIDA’s mission since the organization was founded. What the next level of collaboration looks like is something we can shape together if we hold ourselves accountable for ensuring employee satisfaction and retention. Here are four ways to celebrate collaboration in a post-pandemic world:

Practice thoughtfulness. Mindfulness is the epitome of inclusion. We must remember that the lives and experiences of others are not monolithic. It’s about empathy, seeing others where they are. It’s about dispelling fear and how we approach and change. The pandemic is impacting all of us and the culture we are a part of, but design offers an innate thoughtfulness so well-prepared to help us hold onto cultural touchstones and create new ones.

Rely on high-quality hyperconnection. Listening versus hearing allows teams to be aware of boundaries. With technology that leaves employees glued to their computers, it’s important to take “real” moments. Simple things like actually checking in with a co-worker, remembering to wish their child a happy birthday, or treating office meetings and celebrations as a kind of “homecoming” inspire confidence in employees.

Redefine the skillset. Rethinking onboarding, acclimation and being part of a culture is necessary in today’s world. Now that many people are working remotely, people have invested more in learning new skills and continuing education without the burden of travel times. Knitting individuals into the fabric of a work culture is increasingly about bringing an individual’s personal and professional skills into the team and how those unique skills create added value to support camaraderie and ROI.

Re-learn old rituals as you create new ones. Appreciating different work styles of employees is now not only acceptable, it is necessary, especially as workplace design is used to encourage people to return to the office. From pods to private screens to ‘indoor/outdoor’ spaces, employees are embarking on a new way of working in solitude or coming together for creative ideas and brainstorming. Companies are inventing new ways to take in information through sensory details and atmospheres that also promote well-being and encourage rejuvenation.

We have more control and influence than ever over our environment and how we define space – and using that influence to consider how we can drive greater inclusion and collaboration is the challenge of the moment.


Cheryl Durst is the EVP and CEO of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). Through its network of more than 15,000 members in 58 countries, IIDA advocates for advancement in education, design excellence, law, leadership, accreditation and community outreach.

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