While advances in vaccination efforts and the easing of restrictions have allowed many areas of life to return to relative normalcy, new ways of working are not going away anytime soon—and it’s up to agencies like NDDOT to adapt.

Offices across the country have reopened in recent months, but many Americans have chosen to continue working from home permanently. Others have transitioned into a hybrid model, working from home for a few days a week and in-office for the others.

“Offices are always evolving because of changechanges in technology, communication, privacy, collaboration,” said Kyle Hellman, Workspace Expert at InterOffice. “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this new way of working has required many offices to consolidate, and rethink how they are using floor space.”

Prior to the pandemic, privacy had been the top priority for agencies like the North Dakota Department of Transportation. In 2014, the NDDOT decided to assign each employee their own workstation or private office, which resulted in the agency’s central Bismarck office becoming a “cube farm” consisting of about 350 individual workstations arranged in neat rows.

Fast forward seven years: many of those cubicles sat empty, their occupants opting to continue working from home even as other employees transitioned back into the office. Plus, there were few spaces for remote or hybrid workers to utilize when they did come into the office. Under the leadership of Programming Engineer Jane Berger and Strategy and Innovation Director Russ Buchholz, NDDOT collaborated with InterOffice to transform the space into a modern, inviting environment that would work for every kind of worker.

“We relied heavily on InterOffice’s design skills,” Berger said. “We might design roads, but we don’t design furniture.” 

First, the NDDOT team communicated with employees to determine what their work would look like moving forward. Once Berger and Buchholz had an idea of how many employees would be working remotely, in-office, or both, they shared those numbers with Hellman, who devised a plan.

While certain employees kept their private offices, many unused cubicles were replaced by workstations in a variety of sizes and formations to accommodate employees’ unique needs. Touchdown areas, equipped with Herman Miller Standing Height Headway Tables and SETU Stools, give remote workers a place to work if they need to be in the office for a few hours. Each of the building’s three floors now also includes hoteling stations, a hybrid workstation that home-based employees can rent and use on a temporary basis.  

One of InterOffice’s biggest responsibilities was creating spaces that would allow teammates to collaborate, whether or not they are physically together. 

“These days, we have to be communicating more than ever. It’s necessary to spur creativity, to spur innovation, Berger said. “Those things don’t happen unless we’re talking to each other and we have a comfortable space to do that in.”

InterOffice suggested modular DIRTT walls to construct hybrid meeting rooms for 4-5 people. Inside each of these rooms sits a Herman Miller Headway tapered conference table with table top power, connected to a monitor that allows remote workers to be part of brainstorming sessions and other important conversations. They also curated casual, open-concept collaboration spaces, furnished with a variety of Herman Miller Plex chairs and tables.

“We recognize that different people have different needs at different times,” Berger said. “We wanted to provide them with furniture options that we have never had before, like some soft seating and a high-top table that they can sit or stand at.”

That high-top table has become somewhat of a centerpiece in NDDOT’s office.

“It’s like a kitchen table,” Berger said. “Everyone wants to be there.”

And that’s what the goal was from the very beginning: to create a space where people want to be. Even if some choose to work remotely most, if not all, days of the week, NDDOT employees now know they have a comfortable, welcoming homebase to return to.

“My favorite part is seeing employees’ faces when they see the new space for the first time,” Berger said. “You can’t have collaboration if you can’t get people together. Now we’re hearing comments that people want to be here.”