How to use office design to entice workers back

Boston firm focuses on flexibility, layout, music, culture to provide ‘clear payoff’

How to use office design to entice workers back
The offices of advertising design firm Proverb in Boston, Mass.

As the post-COVID era inches closer, employers are thinking about reopening plans. So, what can be done to entice reluctant workers back to the office?

“Many of us have enjoyed the time that we’ve gained in terms of not commuting and so [it’s about] wanting to ensure that there’s going to be a clear payoff on the other side of the trip to the office,” says Daren Bascome, managing director at Proverb, a Boston-based advertising design house.

“We’re big believers that powerful brands are always connected to purpose-driven organizations and so we’re thinking about how do we inject an additional sense of purpose into our office? It’s everything from where we chose for a location, proximity to other things that make one’s quality of life better: being close to a Whole Foods or to art galleries or to public transportation.”

The company recently moved into a new space, he says, and the company put careful thought into the new design and layout.

“Our new space is in a retail space and given that much of our work revolves around placemaking and place branding, it’s a way of being able to further emphasize the work that we do,” he says.

“There’s an increased focus on amenities and that could be [include] a rooftop deck that we have access to in our new building and so that being a great place for someone to be able to take lunch or have a breakout meeting or things along those lines.”

Office layouts will be different, according to Bascome, as Proverb decided to have fewer physical seats in the office.

“[It’s about] how do you create more environments where people were able to have acoustical privacy or being able to be in the same space and still being able to have a bit of isolation around you? For us, at least having clear partitions and things along those lines have been one of the things that we’re seeing a return to as we were thinking about our layout.”

As well, using music to create a company soundtrack is another way to reinforce the brand and attract workers, according to Bascome.

Daren Bascome

“We’re as likely to be listening to a DJ out of Brussels as we are listening to KCRW out of UC Santa Monica or anything else that someone might bring in. Music in our office has also been a really great way to be able to get to know each other, get to understand what we might value as a company.”

During the pandemic, as many people work from home, things have changed with the relationship between worker and employer, he says.

“One of the things that has come out of COVID is that we don’t have to lie about being human anymore.  So many people have revealed more and more of themselves, and that’s a theme that has only been further amplified by many of the events over the last year in terms of people wanting to be more self-expressed. For us, as we’ve been thinking about the role of this office, obviously there’s a level of flexibility that we think that will build into our culture.”

Latest stories