Could a smart Space Manager ‘MacGyver’ an office?

What if the MacGyver of the 1980’s became an extremely resourceful secret agent turned CRE Space Cop in a post Pandemic world? We know many of MacGyver’s hacks do work in real life, provided you had the knowledge, items and tools. For example, MacGyver could patch a radiator with egg whites; lift fingerprints with soot and adhesive; build a hot air balloon using glue, nylon scraps, a metal shed, and gas canisters; even plug a leak with chocolate and acid.  

All of us have implemented creative ways to MacGyver our homes and schools when short of resources: who HASN’T used duct tape to fix a broken shelf? But could the MacGyver method of creativity work in the office? Even before Covid-19, a resourceful co-worker most likely implemented their own creative repairs, perhaps using the sticky part of a post-it to clean a keyboard or placed an empty egg carton under their laptop to prevent overheating. Others might have hung white boards with putty or affixed a broken handle with a chewed piece of bubble gum. And of course, who hasn’t seen the fix-it guy assembling a filing cabinet with a butter knife rather than that handy little Ikea wrench that came with the box. These types of ingenious fixes work on the any day kind of situation, but can a qualified Space Manager ‘MacGyver’ the office while adhering to current regulations around social distancing during a Pandemic?  Not likely, because keeping teams healthy at work takes more than duct taped safety lines on the floor.

In the early days, restaurants and schools developed imaginative do-it-yourself hacks using plexiglass screens, shower curtains and taped safety zones. Channeling their inner MacGyver, being resourceful kept doors open and business running. Fast forward…professional businesses are in the process of implementing a safe return. Today, Space Planners and Human Resource Managers are dealing with health and safety: designers are moving furniture, closing down or re-arranging common areas; IT teams are enhancing firewalls and managing viral threats on business technology being used as home; Architects and Facility Managers must improve ventilation in new and existing buildings.  These adjustments necessitate a hands-on approach, maintaining a happy balance between creativity and productivity in a safe, flexible and cost-effective work environment.

Just because the Pandemic induced short-term change, it’s just not smart to fake space planning as a survival tactic. Early reactors may have believed they were doing right by incorporating migration from office to virtual. The transition may have happened without proper planning, poor scheduling hindering team productivity. ‘…The migration to remote…requires a fundamental rethink as we now work from anywhere…rather than work from home…’ according to Harvard Professor Rah Choudhury in the Harvard Business Review.

Saving on real estate expenditures should not be the primary driver in down-sizing decisions. Rather, the business must take a hard review of special needs today and tomorrow. For instance, the talent pool has expanded due to work from anywhere capability. Implementing a wholly remote policy might expose space challenges when the upside down goes right side up.  Although now might be the time to take a hard look at space utilization. Business plans moving forward should consider more flexible working arrangements, while allowing teams to alternate in office and work from anywhere as they strive to produce a balanced, happy environment conducive to success.

The idea that everyone misses an office environment is misguided, therefore a re-entry plan will never be a one-size-fits-all business model. What humans DO miss is the socialization aspect of work, even more so now that we no longer have the freedoms’ we now take for granted. When was the last time you went out to a dance club on a Saturday night, did the Sunday movie matinee, or celebrated a holiday with anyone other than those in your inner circle of trust?

The challenges faced by a space planner cannot be managed, figured out and easily adjusted using just the MacGyver method. To meet the demands of safety without overwhelming restriction, be cost-effective in re-design and flexible with scheduling for minimal disruption to the workspace. Operational challenges will continue to drive space planning efforts: therefore, a strong technology toolbox will create better results for planning for and producing a safe environment for all. 

Space planning will be in the best interest of every business to improve space altering efforts rather than to just MacGyver it.