Rethinking Baltimore’s Work Spaces for a Strong Reopening

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Photo Credit: Patrick Ross Photography

Single-space business centers offer an adaptable, achievable solution for working through and beyond the COVID pandemic.

For many, working from home has become a recent reality. The promise of a zero-minute commute and lunch in your own kitchen once sounded ideal. Now, as boundaries blur between home and work responsibilities, it is not the dream many thought it would be. In a recent study from Gensler, only 12% of 2,300 people said they want to work from home full time.

It is clear, however, that returning to business as usual is also not an option. Like fax machines, stringent corporate culture now feels like an office relic. This, of course, was becoming clear pre-pandemic and spurred the rise of more collaborative co-working spaces. Nevertheless, their wide-open layouts and laidback environments felt distracting before and potentially unsafe now. Where is a Goldilocks to work?

Photo Credit: Patrick Ross Photography

There is mounting evidence that employees value flexibility above all. According to the same Gensler study, the top three requests for people to return to the office were more space, less desk sharing, and increased support for mobile and virtual work. Employees still seek an office, but they want to report in when it feels most purposeful.

Photo Credit: Patrick Ross Photography

Baltimore already has a solution. Both the Mt. Washington Mill Business Center and the Federal Hill Bullseye Business Center offer scalable office areas that will support employees through and beyond the COVID pandemic. These historic industrial buildings have been adapted into thousands of square feet of new office space, where small businesses and start-ups can shape the city’s future.

There are three distinct advantages to working from this type of business center right now. First, they are well-suited by design to respond to physical distancing challenges. Designated spaces for individual desks and meetings allow users to work privately or in small teams as needed. Plus, the high ceilings in these historic buildings increase airflow and prevent employees from feeling boxed in.

Photo Credit: Patrick Ross Photography

Second, the centers help boost workers’ mental health by giving them a safe place to go outside of their home. Employees appreciate having an individual, separate workspace where they can shut the door and get to work. At the same time, the centers’ unique layouts still allow workers to meet in small teams, but on their terms. As a result, employees enjoy increased productivity, collaboration, and social interaction while still maintaining healthy personal boundaries.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, single-office spaces can help workers transition from this time of uncertainty to a new normal. When societal rules change daily, these spaces can adapt quickly. Additionally, they will give employees a needed sense of stability by providing a consistent, safe space in which to work.

Photo Credit: Patrick Ross Photography

Right now, as the city reopens, there is an opportunity to help workers feel valued. How they are supported can significantly impact the long-term health of our community. The business center concept is not new, but it might be more relevant, and perhaps more appealing, than ever.

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