As businesses in the US make their way toward relaxing COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us are starting to envision a time when we can return to work at the office. Yet, in the absence of a vaccine, aspects of modern workplaces will have to change if employees are to safely return to their desks.
To make workers feel more confident and comfortable in the office environment, new office design will be aimed at boosting worker confidence, reducing the number of staff in the office at any one time, and longer-term design upgrades and modifications that put hygiene at the heart of workplace planning.
The first phase of resuming office life will involve making basic changes to keep employees safe and allay fears. Employees are very aware of health risks, while employers are sensitive to the potential for liability if people get sick at work.
These are some things that will likely factor into new office design trends:
- Workstations as a physical separation: Workstations were once about privacy and acoustics – now they represent a physical separation between colleagues. Until we hopefully have a vaccine, having that physical barrier will make people feel more comfortable.
- Sneeze guards: The ‘sneeze guard’ is a low-cost, high-impact measure. These could include an additional panel fitted between socially distanced desks.
- No more open plan: Many are heralding the end of the open-plan workplace and the return of small, private offices.
- Distributed offices: Instead of a crowded central hub, some companies are opting for a distributed set of smaller offices that may be closer to where staff live and could mean less exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19 on public transport.
- A staggered workforce: Thismay become standard, with smaller groups coming in on alternate days and shifts that avoid transport rush-hour peaks.
- More hygienic offices: Post-pandemic offices could include hygiene stations, signage indicating direct routes, separated seats and more automation.
- More durable materials: Businesses will choose materials that can withstand heavy cleaning using caustic products. You’ll see porous surfaces like natural oiled wood avoided, with a preference for stone or laminates. You’ll see solution-dyed carpets with moisture-barrier backing used, because they can withstand heavy shampooing.
- Air filtration systems:Companies may look at heavy UV cleaning when everyone has gone home to make sure that the air is as clean as they can get it.
- Change of layout: Office layouts will likely change, with circuitous routes eliminated. We will be more focused on getting from A to B in a very direct manner, and conscious of what we’re touching along the way.
- Contactless office: Another concept that may emerge is the contactless office. For example, employees could eliminate the need to press communal buttons by using their smartphone to send a command to the elevator or staff coffee machine. Conference rooms could be fitted out with voice-activated technologies to control lighting, audio and visual equipment. Passing through doors or flushing the toilet would require a simple wave, while self-service in office kitchens could become a relic of the past, to be replaced with automation or a dedicated server.
Whatever happens in the months ahead, and even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, it seems likely that the experience of living through a pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way we work and how our workplaces function.
Are You Looking to Redesign Your Office Space Following the COVID-19 Pandemic?
CM Commercial is a Class A General Contractor that operates in the Northern Virginia Metropolitan area. We provide a variety of commercial construction services, including office build-outs, commercial remodeling, new construction, pre-construction, and property management. We care about how quickly we can get your business up and running, within budget, while delivering a great experience start to finish. For a free walk-through consultation, contact us at 571.512.8495 or email [email protected]