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Media Workspaces During COVID-19 and Beyond

Tom Michales, Senior Program Director, ET&S

The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced nearly every company to reassess their media workspaces as they plan their employee’s return to the office and meet stringent new safety guidelines. While many can continue to leverage telework technology, there remain several in the media industry whose work practices are tied to a specialized, physical environment. Sustaining these “place-based functions” in both work-from-home and return-to-office situations creates a material challenge for any organization. We have learned by working with our clients in such situations that the workplace will be significantly altered for some time to come. And, despite the unfortunate condition created by this global crisis, some of these changes may improve performance and productivity. Here are some key points on what we’ve seen:

1. Telework is Real:

Several categories of staff may never return to a ‘traditional’ office environment, based on the successful adoption of telework. Cloud enterprise applications, web conferencing, and a reliable broadband connection allow a mobile phone and a laptop computer to sufficiently mimic the office environment for many administrative, financial and back office support roles. This will reduce the quantity of people in one space at a time, especially in an open office environment where it is difficult to social distance during the workday.

How it affects the workplace:

We envision that roles needing dedicated offices or meeting spaces may be retained to a degree and that an open office plan may be partly (or entirely) replaced with either schedulable ‘hotel offices’ or even the return of cubicles.

2. Don’t Attempt to Contain the Creative:

Creative teams quickly adopted web conferencing tools to communicate, but there are many times when getting in the same space to collaborate, ideate and be creative require an interpersonal human dynamic that even the best web conferencing and online collaboration tools cannot satisfy.

How it affects the workplace:

To meet the need for this in-person interaction, we are forecasting a change in these spaces from open bench-type plans with small conference rooms, to larger technology-powered  “collaboration rooms” where people can be creative but maintain their distance. This way, project or production teams can come together a couple days a week for those key sessions and otherwise work remotely.

3. High Tech is Affordable:

The need for dedicated, ultra-high-end technical spaces will remain for those needing to attain the Gold Standard finish on specific kinds of productions. For example, theatrical audio mix, Foley stages, and color grading, require very specific architectural spaces and high cost technologies. This is impractical, and sometimes even impossible, to replicate in small satellite operations or in the home. But many creative professionals can do a significant portion of their work using software, multi-core computers and high-quality video monitors while at home. The sophistication of the work that can be performed is further extended when leveraging cloud compute options or low latency virtualization platforms that can tether an operator to the physical systems back in the office. And the solutions for a substantial amount of this work to be done remotely is finally affordable.

How it affects the workplace:

We predict two conditions in this area: The first is the continuance of in-facility, ultra-high-end technical environments for many creative professionals to perform critical quality work. And secondly, an increase in mid-level home studio environments for when you don’t need ‘the big room.’ When companies run the financial models for the cost of physical space leaseholds and capital improvements against the deployment of applications and commoditized hardware at home, the result may be surprising.

There is no doubt that facility architects are reviewing and re-envisioning how the office environment can evolve to meet ever changing health and safety requirements for all types of organizations in the media industry. From the types of spaces needed, to their critical adjacencies. From presence detection to environmental treatments. Everything is getting a look.

While the physical spaces will be altered for those employees returning to the office environment, for those remaining remote for the longer term, special business considerations must be given to the security of sensitive company and personal data, as well as the content itself. Fortunately, Diversified’s Emerging Technology & Solutions practice partners with numerous technology manufacturers and service providers who enable these controls.

Join us for our next installment of our Media Workspaces series where we dive deeper into some of these solutions.

In the meantime, learn how you can #AdaptEvolveThrive to the media industry’s new normal with Diversified’s Emerging Technologies & Solutions specialty.