We had all just started to get our heads around open plan living and it all being about high-density plans, but that was without coronavirus in mind, and the walls are coming back up!
In the pre-covid world, we all wanted open plan, spacious office living with social hubs and collision coefficient. But the problem is, we are not allowed to collide anymore, so it is essential to rethink the design of your office space for the return to work.
Many companies first response to the social distancing requirements was to order Perspex screens and hand sanitiser, encouraging a supply shortage. However, these accessories are particularly not sustainable nor a design-conscious way of eliminating the spread of the virus. The pandemic has lasted over a year, and the new normal way of living looks like it's here to stay.
One way traffic systems- One-way traffic systems will be one of many ways a workspace will have to change about their day-to-day operations. The workspace needs to have enough office space to offer one-directional footfall around the building with social distancing measures.
Separating desks- With new governmentally introduced social distancing measures, desks will have to be separated to diminish the spread of covid. Offices with masses of staff working side by side may struggle with this requirement due to the lack of space available. It may also cause more people to stay at home as the office space does not have enough capacity to fit every employee. This can be difficult for businesses who are used to working in this environment. Studies show that organisation culture has a proven influence on business performance, particularly revenue growth, net income, productivity, employee absence, creativity, and employee retention.
Office partitions- For now, it looks like physical distancing will be in place for quite a while. Office spaces with designed partitions or work booth are the perfect way of meeting workplace regulations and restoring confidence amongst employees. The pandemic has caused many of use to become extra conscious about hygiene and safety, and rightly so, therefore, booths to allow people to break away from potentially busy spaces may preserve their anxiety being back in the office.
Anti-microbial materials and treatment- using anti-microbial material and treatments within your office design, including copper, copper alloys and untreated wood, will not only look good in the space available but also help to shorten the lifespan of the covid-19 virus. Untreated wooden accents or fixtures can be exceptionally favourable with LED lighting designs or greenery, creating an earthy look and feel. Also, offices with onsite open spaces such as roof terraces and balconies become more attractive to employees and visitors. With the outdoor element, enough air will decrease the virus from spreading, allowing outdoor work productivity.
Some believe that the introduction of covid-19 may have given the technology a new purpose. Myerson suggests that sensors, location beams, and other intelligence systems will now be used to maximise employee safety rather than efficiency. The world is forever moving into a more digitalised way of living, and more crucially, perhaps we will use technology in the future to prevent or restrict other variants like covid-19 from evolving again. Technology in the workplace can be used to remove touchpoints, for example, creating a design with automatic doors, self-flushing toilets, each prevents physical touching.
It is essential to consider technological fixes to your post covid fit-out as the virus is accelerating the breakup of the traditional model of the modern industrial workplace.
The central workplace problem in the age of social distancing remains a sustained problem. It is essential to challenge the fundamental model, creating a more innovative, accessible, yet safe work environment.