As we prepare to return to the office, it’s important to acknowledge that the office changed while we were away. Masks and social distancing are only the most visible parts of their change. The true change is far deeper.

This pandemic has shown that the office no longer stands alone as the best place to work. The global-scale of this recent virtual work experience has proven that we can find success in remote working. The technology is in place, we can learn it, and we can master it. There are many ways in which virtual work has proven superior to the physical office. The office isn’t disappearing, but it must compete for a valued role in our lives.

With this paradigm shift, we must change the way we design the workplace. The office must change to become more desirable, more unique, more differentiated, more wanted, more valued. This is a time to expect more from our workplace, not less. A decade ago, author Seth Godin stated, ‘If we were starting this whole office thing today, it's inconceivable we'd pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get.’ Now it seems we have that opportunity: To redesign our workplaces to achieve greater value.

The next office need not be designed around workstations because efficiency in individual work isn’t what the office does best. The Experience Economy author Jim Gilmore states that it is ‘in place that you prove who you are.’ The next office must prove to new recruits why your unique history and vision for the future should compel them to join your team. It must prove to clients that the breadth of the brand and expertise of its people are unequaled in the market. It must prove to employees that this is a company to believe in and be dedicated to.

Storytelling and culture-building are at the core of what makes the next office more valuable than it’s virtual competition. Unlocking this value requires the expertise of ‘environmental branding.’ Environmental Branding experts layer story and brand messaging into the built-environments created by architects and interior designers. Together we create powerful, purpose-driven workplaces where people want to be.

With a new virtual workplace option in the market, we must make it worth it for recruits, customers, employees, and visitors to come to the office. And when they do come, give them more—Give them a unique brand experience that they cannot get anywhere else but at your office.

Please follow Kahler Slater as our industry experts continue knowledge sharing on the post-pandemic workplace. The next workplace will find its highest value supporting work that distanced-based technology cannot replicate. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore how space promotes collaboration and mentoring, how the workplace can support a whole person, how to find the correct balance between remote and office-based work, and how wellness initiatives elevate engagement and productivity.