Herman Miller: The Future of Work

Three shifts to help organizations navigate a post-pandemic future

The global pandemic touches every aspect of life: home, work, and all the places in between. We’ve identified three of the most important shifts that workplaces everywhere must make to remain relevant. When you’re ready to explore further, we’re able to help you make any workplace changes to help your people do their best work— wherever they choose to do it.

shift 1: from forced acceptance to strategic advantage (aka – working from home will never work! to maybe we can make this work)


The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated germinating workplace trends  – the reality is that distributed work is here to stay.

Early in the pandemic, organizations and employees alike struggled with the sudden shift to remote work. A year later, business leaders have warmed to the idea that staff could stay productive away from the office—at least for part of the week. Up to 70 percent of organizations are planning for at least some portion of their workforce continuing to work from home.

Several approaches to distributed work have emerged:

  • The “binary strategy” (in which organizations view employees as either office workers or remote workers) to
  • The “remote-first strategy” (in which working from home becomes every employee’s primary mode).
  • The fastest-growing approach is one in which most employees exercise autonomy in choosing from a broad array of options both within and beyond the office for where they’ll work on a given day – hybrid strategy.
shift 2: from substantial investment to competitive edge


  • Community socialization – As we look to the future, there’s an opportunity to reorient the office so that workers feel less anchored to it and more buoyed by it, as facilities focus on hosting experiences that the isolation of the pandemic robbed from us all. Rebuilding work relationships is critical for establishing and maintaining culture—and helping people feel a sense of purpose and belonging. By providing areas that encourage people to interact with their extended networks, your office can help re-establish these connections.
  • Team collaboration – In the prevailing model of workplace design, individual workstations are “owned” or assigned, and group spaces are shared. But organizations looking to seed spontaneous socialization and concerted collaboration need to flip this to more of a neighbourhood model – where team space is owned, while individual spaces are shared within it.
  • Individual focus – The past year has stressed our homes in many ways, with spare bedrooms called into duty as classrooms, gyms, offices, or all the above. And for those of us without a room to spare, the realities of children, roommates, or extended family have made it difficult to even find a corner to work in—let alone actually finding focus. For these individuals, a return to the physical office can provide a respite for concentration and focused work, given the right spatial setup.
Shift 3: From floorspace flexibility to user adaptability


Technology has been reshaping work for decades, but it took a virus to change the office landscape overnight. In the early months of the pandemic, many organizations focused on providing safer work environments to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Now organizations are turning their attention to employee well-being. To be effective, this shift must emphasize adaptability in a deeper sense. In the past, a workplace setting was considered “flexible” if it could be reconfigured for different uses by a facilities or maintenance team. As organizations plan their return-to-work strategies, however, the power to adapt a space needs to rest with the people working within it.

Change is always expected whenever any workplace moves from construction to post-occupancy. That said, it has never been tougher for organizations to plan for these changes than now, as employees return from this prolonged experience of working from home. We believe that shifting investments toward furnishings and tools that fit into the existing areas can optimize space to embrace change. These kinds of adaptable solutions will meet rising expectations for autonomy, choice, and user control.

This is an abridged adaptation of the full Herman Miller Insights article – for the full paper, please click here.

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