While some employers are eager to get back to an on-site, 9-5 work model, others are considering a workplace that is hybrid and more flexible. Regardless of what your business has decided in terms of setting up your post-COVID office, you may have to redesign or reconfigure your workplace design to reduce contact, promote collaboration and make your employees feel safe.
This article discusses the major components of reimagining your office post-pandemic. It looks at factors like layout, furniture, meeting rooms, technology and cleaning protocols. This information will not only help your business define the future of your office but also create a workplace that’s truly more resilient.
Workstations and physical distancing
With gadgets reducing in size and companies going paperless, our desks at work have shrunk over the years. If your business has decided to phase back into the office, you will either need to increase the size of your desks or create more spaces between two work desks to implement physical distancing measures.
Start by reviewing your floor plans to understand how your layout may need to be re-arranged to maintain a distance of 2 metres. You can also add enclosures to your layout with transparent panels that can protect employees while still allowing them to see each other. Another aspect to bear in mind while redesigning your workplace is to limit objects on the workstation. Investing in personal laptops, stationery (preferably sustainable!) and hygiene kits will limit desk objects and help make cleaning more efficient.
Need help in redesigning your space? Our Furniture and Interior Specialists will guide you every step of the way. Learn more here.
Furniture and technology
Every business returning to the office should aim to adapt to the current situation and future-proof their office environment. Employers can ensure this by using adaptable furniture and new technology.
Offices and hybrid working spaces will now see an increased use of lightweight and flexible furniture. This type of furniture allows for better collaboration, sanitisation and flexibility to change floor plans as needed. If your business plans to invest in brand new furniture, it is best to opt for easy to clean, non-porous and anti-microbial surfaces, like vinyl and laminate. You may also want to invest in recyclable placemats for employees’ desks that they can grab every morning and recycle at the end of the day.
In addition to furniture, organisations will also have to run a fine-tooth comb over their usage of appliances and technology. For example, investing in touch-free technology like motion control lighting and doors will be vital in making the workplace worker-friendly and safe. Kitchens and bathrooms will also need to incorporate innovation. For example, designating separate fridges and dishwashers for different departments and installing sensor-activated taps in bathrooms.
Hand Hygiene and Water Stations
Washing hands and maintaining proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to mitigate the transmission of Covid-19. It is the responsibility of every workplace to provide adequate handwashing facilities and ensure these are kept clean and adequately restocked. You can promote regular and thorough handwashing by providing employees with tissues, hand sanitisers and other PPE to stay safe. You can also place mobile hand sanitiser units in prominent places around the workplace along with display posters promoting handwashing. If your workplace has sinks only inside the bathroom, you may want to consider introducing self-contained hand washing stations in high traffic areas.
Lastly, ensure that staff, contractors, and customers have access to these water stations and are aware of all the safety measures you have in place inside the premises.
Open plans and biophilic designs
While some designers believe the pandemic to be the end of the open-plan office, others think that open-plan offices are here to stay. The critics of the open-plan office say that the shared air and lack of physical barriers pose severe dangers. The supporters believe that open floors are easier to clean and limit the surface area employees will touch.
The decision of your layout depends on several aspects such as square footage, number of employees, and your existing set-up. However, if you do have an open-plan office, here are a few things you can do to preserve its benefits. Many offices and health care facilities are now installing what is known as a Displacement Ventilation System. In simple words, it is a viable ventilation strategy that involves installing airflow systems to pull out exhaled air from the top and deliver filtered air from the bottom of the room. Although a bit complex to set up, this model significantly lowers pathogens circulating in a shared environment.
In addition to the quality of indoor air, the well-being of office workers is of utmost importance. The colour green is known to enhance moods and be an effective stress buster. Research conducted at the University of Hyogo in Japan states that small potted plants can relieve workplace stress. These are definitely anxious times; therefore experts suggest incorporating biophilic workplace design such as plants and green walls into your office layout. This works wonders for the mental health of your employees, allows for a connection to nature and improves air quality.
Smaller meeting rooms
Conference rooms or meeting rooms pose a specific risk to social distancing. This is because they are designed to enclose groups of people in a fixed space for extended periods. A 2019 Workplace Utilisation Report states that 85% of meetings have fewer than 7 attendees, emphasising that smaller meetings are more common than larger meetings. Unfortunately, this also means that smaller meeting rooms are more likely to be at overcapacity, and hence should be prioritised for social distancing efforts.
With organisations looking to de-densify workplaces, you may be looking at a hybrid office culture. Your organisation will now also have to think about the AV requirements in meeting rooms for meetings to be seamless.
Before the doors of your business finally re-open, it is imperative to put a cleaning protocol in place. You will have to introduce strict policies on daily cleaning, sanitisation of hardware and common areas.
Countertops, desks and door handles are high touch surfaces and therefore need to be looked at. As mentioned under Furniture and Technology (#2), some surfaces — like laminate and synthetic quartz — are easier to clean than others. Opting for these materials will help reduce the spread of infection and facilitate more efficient cleaning.
You can also introduce something known as a ‘Clean Desk Policy’. According to this policy, all non-essential items should be stored in drawers, rather than on the office desk. This will ensure confidentiality of data, better cleaning and promote culture of your organization.
Are you getting ready to return to work post-COVID-19? Our team of professionals can guide you through everything you need to ensure proper safety measures at your workplace. Schedule an initial call with our Office Furniture & Interior specialists below today!