Interior Design
Environmental Graphic Design
Workplace Strategy
Building Repositioning


22 Dec

Behind the Design: Why the Physical Office?

As we near the end of 2022, our studio is reflecting back on the lasting impacts that the pandemic has had on our lives, our businesses, and our designed environments. Back in 2020, there were early ideas and solutions such as the “six-foot office” and plastic divider panels that were focused on safely re-entering a socially distanced world. While safety was (and remains) a critical component to our post-2020 world, it’s clear that the “six-foot office” was a far cry from a sustainable long-term solution to how we think about a designed environment.

We’re reminded of our early counter argument to the “six-foot office.” It was discussed in June of 2020, when three of our principals – Jenna Ruth, Omied Arvin, and Diana Nankin – spoke at the virtual San Francisco Design Week (SFDW) event about the future of the workplace. Watching the talk again now, two years later, these points continue to be important to our practice. We remain hyper-focused on a sustainable, long-term perspective about the designed environment. We want the designed environment to grow our businesses, improve our livelihoods, and encourage meaningful connections and relationships with each other. And we want to have fun doing it!

To view the SFDW presentation, follow these steps:

  • Go to:
  • Enter  SFDWsvnZNUfw@puGJqXP  in the password box in the top right corner of page
  • Enter email address when prompted
  • Open the link sent to the provided email address
  • Click “Return to Event” locate in the top right corner of page

Our studio may be largely made up of workplace designers, but that doesn’t mean we’re afraid to continue to ask the question “Why the physical office?” As designers, we believe it’s our role to question and challenge the status quo in order to help guide our clients and organizations in understanding WHY they need a physical office for their employees and businesses, and HOW to gather the relevant information needed in order to implement the best solution for their business.

FENNIE+MEHL San Francisco Design Week

Re-investing in People

FENNIE+MEHL San Francisco Design Week process

We recommend businesses take this pandemic as a huge re-investment opportunity into their people. Now more than ever businesses need to be investigating how to support people’s important work activities. Many will be surprised by the results. For example, those businesses who didn’t have a remote work policy before 2020 and learned some of their teams are more productive and actually fulfilled by not spending so many hours in a physical office.

If businesses put their people first, and rethink old traditional ways of planning and building out office spaces, we believe the future will be pretty bright.


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