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Hybrid work may be the future of work – Tomi Bamgbelu

In this interview, Tomi Bamgbelu, Creative Director of Spazio Ideale, speaks to BusinessDay’s Endurance Okafor about the interior design industry, its impact on the future of work, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also advises organizations to be intentional with their office space to improve employee productivity. Excerpt:

What impact does an office environment have on a company’s productivity and effectiveness?

There is a direct and high correlation between productivity and workplace design or environment. Organizations comprise people who work together to achieve the company goals and objectives. Therefore, it stands to reason that their well-being—healthcare and commensurate remuneration, among others—is prioritized to ensure productivity.

An often-overlooked motivation for employee productivity is their environment, especially the office space. The intelligent use of space reflects a consideration of proper lighting, ergonomics and space planning needs, and these, when properly observed, are positively correlated with productivity.

Are people interested in workplace design in Nigeria?

Relative to more advanced climes, Nigeria’s market is nascent. And expectedly, it lacks the structure present in the design industry’s leading countries. While we have come a long way, there is a long road ahead.

Interestingly, there is a growing—albeit low—awareness among millennials, baby boomers, and even the Gen Z of the need for interior designers to create the right ambience in their offices and homes. However, this interest appears only to be concentrated in the segments of society able to afford such services: the middle and upper class.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the workplace, with many employees now working from home or doing a hybrid. What should companies working from their offices consider at such a time?

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading across the globe fast, some countries have initiated lockdowns, while it is in the works for others. Sadly, this is familiar territory, but I believe we are better prepared this time around.

First off, it is a no-brainer that companies should take safety precautions for their employees as laid out by their country’s governments and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Secondly, they can reduce the number of people in the office by staggering work-from-home days such that some people work from home on certain days, and others from the office. Of course, this division should be based on the total number of employees against the maximum the government allows.

To manage this, companies can create a registration system (Slack, Google forms, etc.) for those coming to work at the office.

We advise that organizations ensure their offices have a one-way path for entry and exit with safety signs and navigation maps to help people find their way around the office. This ensures a clear path for people to minimize contact in corridors without enough space.

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What is your perspective on the recently adopted work-from-home strategy?

It has been around for quite a while, but the wide adoption being witnessed is because of the pandemic. Interestingly, it took the commercial industries, such as businesses and organizations, a pandemic to realign and see its benefits. Since its inception five years ago, Spazio Ideale has adopted a flexible work-from-home strategy that allows employees to come to the office only when they want to.

With the advent of new technology and software for project management and communication like Trello, Zoom, and Slack, organizations are moving more towards WFH. Although this strategy works, it should be aligned with a company’s business model for it to be worth adopting. I typically advise a hybrid model where organizations allow staff to work from home or the office as required. I believe a hybrid strategy is the future of work and will be widely adopted because employees have diverse productivity needs.

For the time being, the hybrid strategy is perfect for Nigeria. It allows a WFH employee to address their peculiar challenges, one of which is constant power supply. A slight tweak to this strategy would be employees working from hubs or coworking spaces close to their homes.

How does Spazio Ideale stand out?

As a business focused on improving our clients’ lives through exceptional design and excellent execution, we have instituted a process that ensures we deliver excellent quality. We remain committed to our mission, which is critical to what we do. And thanks to this, we have several repeat clients.

Spazio Ideale’s processes revolve around these two key pillars delivered to our clients’ time over time.

Our slogan is “connecting people to spaces through exceptional design and excellent execution”, so all projects are designed with an experiential feature to enable clients to create memories through their interaction and flow with people within the space.

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