May 18, 2020

This is part 2 in a series where DPR experts look at ways to build resiliency into commercial spaces as we move through the COVID pandemic and beyond. Part 1 looked at improvements that can be made to existing spaces. Part 3 examines technology for remote asset management and Part 4 discusses planning for healthier future spaces. This segment discusses ways to spread out individuals within a workforce.

Once offices come back online, facility leaders will have much to consider in the longer term. For example, physical distancing requirements in offices are almost sure to be a fixture for months to come, if not permanently. Certainly, the ability for any workplace to pivot to a setup that places employees at more physical distance from one another will be needed.

While that’s good practice for disease prevention, other potential disruptions may influence where people are able to go to work.

The entrance to DPR Construction's office in Reston, Virginia.
An aging suburban office space in Reston, VA has been given new life through renovation. Photo courtesy of ©Judy Davis / Hoachlander Davis Photography

“Natural disasters have disrupted regions and businesses in the past. Mobility in many communities was an issue prior the pandemic, too. Our nation’s infrastructure is in great need of upgrading. As recent events like Seattle’s bridge closure show, that affects a group of people’s ability to commute reliably," said Matt Murphy, DPR Construction's core markets leader. "One outcome of this crisis, especially with the knowledge of how effective workers can be remotely, is flexible options for where to come to work.”

With billions of feet of suburban office park space on the market, some businesses may consider repositioning them to match the experience of their more urban office spaces. With technology to connect teams seamlessly, satellite spaces provide more options for workers and give companies an easy way to spread out their workforce to avoid overfilling an office.

“Obviously, this means taking on more real estate, but a lot of larger firms already have this setup,” Murphy said. “It’s more about aligning the office space to provide a unified worker experience.”

An interior area of Behr Paints' headquarters in Newport Beach, California.
Renovations to suburban spaces can create the same feeling as a downtown office tower, as shown by Behr Paints' Newport Beach, CA headquarters. Photo courtesy of Takata Photography

Fortunately, there are examples of how suburban real estate doesn’t need to resemble the Office Space stereotype. DPR’s work with Behr Paints on its Newport Beach, CA headquarters, for example, shows that the kind of workspace and amenities that one might expect in a downtown skyscraper is absolutely feasible in the suburbs. Additionally, DPR’s Washington, D.C. and San Diego offices show how inefficient suburban spaces can be renovated to achieve net-zero energy. In fact, many of the strategies leveraged to reposition urban commercial spaces apply to any sort of workplace.

“On a longer horizon, many customers may consider spreading their workforces out simply to ensure that, whatever happens wherever, they can plan on limiting disruption to operations,” Murphy said. “If you’re a company with thousands of square feet of space, the more you can spread those square feet out, the more agile you will be in the face of disease outbreaks, infrastructure disruptions, natural disasters and more.”