Employees returning to offices that have been closed due to the COVID-19 crisis will find a very different environment awaiting them. Measures to contain the spread of the virus have been enacted, including distancing protocols to keep people at least two metres apart and the use of face masks when that separation can’t be maintained. However, not everything will have changed.

While flexible office furniture required to achieve density, geometry, and division goals will be installed, a familiar resource will no doubt still be there: the good old reliable whiteboard.

You remember the whiteboard, don’t you? A staple of boardrooms, meeting rooms, and classrooms, it’s a simple collaborative office solution tool that’s usually mounted on a wall, allowing for interaction among meeting participants, with information added and removed easily. Some of its main selling points include:

  • It’s a presenter’s tool. Information gathered from an audience can be easily added to the board, serving as a point of discussion. It can just as easily be removed with a damp cloth or a brush.
  • It can serve as a screen for a projector.
  • It’s also a valuable resource for participants to get the same information at the same time, encouraging interaction and idea sharing.

Whiteboards, Old and New, Will Remain a Fixture of the Office for a Long Time

For these and other reasons, it’s likely this low-tech, or no-tech, bit of collaborative office hardware will be around for a long time yet. Sometimes the simplest solutions work the best, at least for limited purposes. Some wheels don’t need to be reinvented.

There are, of course, tech versions of the whiteboard, including Microsoft’s whiteboard app, part of the Office package. It, and other similar programs like the one in Zoom Rooms for Touch, allow for collaboration in real time. Employers will want to ensure that whichever collaborative office solution they use, including the whiteboard, continues to stimulate creativity, engagement, and collaboration.

Generative Collaboration Difficult to Replicate Online

Steelcase outlined three types of collaborative work that happens in office settings:

  • Informative: sharing information or coordinating tasks
  • Evaluative: considering options, making choices
  • Generative: creating new ideas and solving complex problems

While informative and evaluative collaboration can happen remotely with video, email, and text conversations, generative collaboration is difficult to replicate. It relies on spontaneous conversation and brainstorming which stems from in-person engagement. Thus, once employees are back at the office, tech resources, including more advanced whiteboards, remain instrumental in helping employees collaborate more easily with team members. These can include:

  • Steelcase Flex Markerboard Solutions: The Steelcase Flex Collection empowers teams to create spaces that can be rearranged on demand, creating environments teams and individuals need to do their best work.
  • Steelcase Roam Stand and Microsoft Surface Hub 2: This is an easy-to-install wall mount created for the Surface Hub 2S, giving teams the freedom to collaborate any way and anywhere. It can be easily moved from huddle spaces to conference rooms.
  • Steelcase Flex Mobile Power: This is the first of its kind enterprise-level mobile power solution for the workplace.
  • Thread Power Distribution: Thread, a freestanding power outlet, offers a workplace solution unlike any other. Its power track seamlessly integrates into a space, providing power to furniture and users, without impacting foot traffic.
  • Exponents Whiteboard and Mobile Display: Carefully designed with technological capabilities and effortless portability, it simplifies meetings.
  • Groupwork Screens and Whiteboards: Groupwork is an endless collection of tables and multipurpose whiteboards designed to support the dynamic nature of collaborative work.

The value of whiteboards has been long established, and will continue to work well in the office environment, as long as distancing protocols are encouraged and maintained. We are moving into unfamiliar terrain as we get back to the office, and perhaps a little bit of the tried and true will be welcomed. Contact the experts at POI today for more information about what collaborative office solutions will work in your workspace.

Learn more about how your workplace can collaborate safely and with purpose in our upcoming webinar on September 30. Sign up here.