The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work, changes that are likely to be long lasting. In a recent survey, three-fourths of those responding said they expect to have more flexibility in where they work. Almost all of the those responding said their supervisors trust them to work remotely.
People will be returning to offices as well. But those offices will be different than they were before the pandemic. Companies are still working out how they will reconfigure workspaces for greater safety. It is an ongoing process, one that will continue to evolve as people return and operations resume.
How are offices going to change?
Some organizations have already made recommendations, such as using partitions to separate people, changing seating arrangements so that people are facing away from each other, using automatic doors, and increasing the natural ventilation in the office.
The goal is to design offices that allow employees to socially distance and work because they will not return until they feel safe.
In the short term, the main concern will be to reduce the density of the office space. This will most likely require employers to stagger the return of workers, rather than bringing them back all at once.
Other possible changes include removing desks so that there is at least six feet between each person, There may be tape on floors showing the direction people need to move and screens around desks. Some companies are already making special coronavirus screens for office furniture.
Reception desks will have floor signs that show safe distancing. Touchless hand sanitizier dispensers will be set up near elevators.
Architects and designers are also taking lessons learned from building science labs and applying them to office layouts. For example, antiviral coatings, which are commonplace in biotech labs, may gain wider use in offices. Some companies are now advertising antimicrobial lights for offices.
Businesses will be reassessing how much space they need in this new coronavirus environment. Will it be more or less? If companies want to make sure people stay six feet apart, they are likely to need more space. However, if a large proportion of the workforce elects to work remotely, it is possible less space will be needed.
Going forward, existing office space will have to adapt to new hygiene requirements, while new buildings now on the drawing board will need to be reappraised.
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