While technology defines our remote working lives at present, leading furniture Austrian manufacturer Bene’s The Core concept is harnessing the power of smart buildings to make the future of the full return to work that much closer a reality.

COVID-19 has profoundly changed the way we see the office and the world of work. Rapid digitisation of remote work and the home office meant in the early stages of the pandemic that even the most reticent of businesses rapidly embraced the likes of Zoom, Teams to Slack. New styles of leadership also developed to cope with workforces suddenly decamped to their domestic environments.

However as Michael Fried, executive board member for sales, marketing & innovation at Bene says, “The importance of the office as a hub for information, corporate culture and social interaction is growing.” The physical workspace is still a vital part of the working landscape and face-to-face exchanges with colleagues can’t be fully replaced by multiple hours a day spent chatting via a screen. But, Fried adds, “Offices must convey a sense of security, orientation and trust in order to continue to be inspiring places for people to meet and be creative in the future.” Buildings that will enable the return to work need to be remodelled and adjusted to meet necessary safety measures so that people feel both safe and can be productive.This is where The Core concept by Bene comes in. Successfully trialled in a physical space at Bene’s showroom in Frankfurt, it’s now set for a global rollout and combines sophisticated smart room technology with an open spatial structure and special shielded areas. The design was rapidly developed in conjunction with Bene, real estate consulting firm Drees & Sommer, workplace consultancy neotares Consult and Holger Meyer Arkitektur.

It is so-called as its designers believe that the office is the physical ‘core’ of an organisation, the heart of a company, a place where people and ideas come together, creating opportunities for spontaneous social interaction and collaborative and agile work, and where shared management and fluid leadership can evolve. The Core journey starts at the check-in area with temperature screening and registering for track and trace, followed by contact-free hand disinfection. The system will then give a green light to lead the visitor to a prior selected and cleaned workstation.

Social distancing is ensured throughout the collaboration areas by using pieces of furniture as ‘anchor points’ with teamwork and exchange still the focus of the entire office space. The room configurations are designed in such a way that they can be adapted to changing needs at short notice. Moveable partition walls and partition elements can be used as protective barriers. in addition to the team workspace and informal meeting areas, other gathering spots include places for spontaneous stand-up meetings.

As Bene’s Michael Fried adds,“Meeting and communication zones are becoming increasingly important in the office. It becomes a motor for innovation, a space for ideas and opportunities with the focus more on teamwork and less on individual work.”

What The Core does so well is managing that delicate balancing act between distance and teamwork so that people feel comfortable and can work creatively at the same time.

Sensor technology used by The Core can then be used to collate and analyse data to determine which spatial settings are particularly popular. Revisions and improvements can be continually made to create the most efficient and effective workplaces. It fulfils an important function of the post-pandemic office as Patricia Möckesch, product & innovation ambassador at Bene explains, “The office is a living organism that is constantly evolving and adapting to changing structures and the latest processes in a company or team. It is important to think about these plans and space concepts on a regular basis and make sure they are still serving their purpose.”

No-one knows exactly how or when the pandemic will end but there is no doubt that it has altered the office landscape immeasurably. With The Core concept you can constantly learn, meaning the design will be relevant for the future of the office, long after our current state of flux has passed.