Pandemic-proofing offices could involve short-term fixes, new working patterns and long-term design upgrades that put hygiene at the heart of workplace planning.
Mitigate the risk
The biggest priority and challenge for post coronavirus offices is controlling the infection.
How can we control contamination in open plan high density offices?
How can we control infection in hot desking environments?
Or communal and social spaces?
The challenges are many. We have to respond to COVID-19 crisis and mitigate the infection risk by introducing new safety features and measures and improving sanitisation and disinfection processes in our offices. It’s a big change that will create new work styles and build new working culture which we need to be prepared for.
We have created some illustrations showing ways of changing office desk configurations to create greater space between your team members.
Here are some points to consider when you are thinking about re-configuring your office:
- Can you turn back-to-back desks currently in the centre of the room around, so the operators face the walls?
- Reducing density: Can you separate banks of desks so there are gaps between each set of two or four?
- Can you spread workspaces around, so people are at least 2 meters apart?
- Consider moving pedestals so that they are in the centre of the desks between two users, so they are physically unable to come together side by sideIf you have mobile pedestals, consider moving them out so they sit between the desks, increasing the space between the users
- Consider moving filing cabinets/cupboards between desks to increase the space between the users
- For face-to-face users, consider introducing additional barriers on top of desk top screens to increase protection from coughs or sneezes. Add screens beside and behind office workers, the higher and wider the better
- Hot desking: Eliminate or introduce a strict clean in and clean out measures
Meetings and social spaces
It’s likely that before we start welcoming visitors to our workplaces, we can expect to spend much time meeting virtually with our customers and suppliers rather than sitting face-to-face around the meeting table.
With that in mind, we would recommend to thin out the meeting rooms to safely accommodate smaller groups with greater distancing. It’s important to remove alternative chairs and ensure there is always a 2m space in every direction between the chair positions. There is also the potential to use these rooms to create working space for members of the team thus allowing us to provide greater distancing in office areas. If meeting tables are modular and can be separated, do so to increase the distancing further. It’s recommended to even meet standing up in the open areas of your office. By using flexible tools, movable furniture solutions and screens you can easily create a safe and productive meeting area.
Floor plan ideas
- Decrease density by staggering lunches and breaks in cafes or other staff areas
- Incorporate higher space division to naturally encourage distancing by introducing barriers such as screens, storage, large plants and partitioning
- Introduce cubicle style office to protect personal desk space with higher screens
- Adapt an owned desk space approach and reduce shared desking
- Reduce guest seating in reception areas and introduce individual seating in lounge spaces
- Easy access to disinfecting stations
A report has suggested that:
The 9-5 is dead but the office is NOT: Workplaces will not ‘return to normal’ after the coronavirus pandemic but most companies will not let employees work from home permanently.
The publication warns workplaces ‘will not return to normal’ after the pandemic is brought under control – with employees having adapted to the ‘new normal’ of working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The study has advised that there has been increased stress levels among employees due to working from home since the lockdown was enforced in May 2020. It suggests workers splitting time between the office and working from home may be the way forward for many companies, even after the pandemic is over.
London-based outsourcing giant Capita have not renewed leases on 25 of their offices, while Lloyds Banking Group was reviewing its office space requirements after deciding most of its 65,000 employees have performed well working from home.
But the report says others, including social media giant Facebook, had turned against working from home models, while American mutlinational IBM had also pulled back from its staff working from home.
However the report concludes that the likely way forward for businesses will be a mixed model, with employees working from home some of the time, and in the office others.
The boardroom is the hub of your organisation where all the big decisions and deals are often made so it is important to make it a space fit for these purposes. With this in mind, here are our three most important boardroom design considerations.
A tired old boardroom is likely to induce that same feeling of lethargy in meetings and conference calls. Investing in some new boardroom furniture including comfortable chairs and the right bright colours will liven up meetings and may even inspire more creativity.
The inside of your boardroom should at the very least be well insulated from outside noise from phones ringing and general chatter from staff outside. It should also have good acoustics on the inside so that everyone can be heard no matter where they happen to be seated.
There is nothing worse than spending valuable time in the boardroom fiddling with monitors and fumbling around trying to get equipment connected. If you have potential clients sitting in your boardroom witnessing this, it will do little to inspire confidence in your business. A boardroom should be the flagship part of your office space and that should include seamless technology.
As time moves on so does the age of your employees and most office chairs will now be filled by a generation of people collectively known as millennials or those born between the early 1980s and just after the year 2000. As millennials are now so essential to businesses, how do you go about attracting them and keeping them in your office rather than those of the competition?
Most millennials don’t like conventional offices
If you want to retain your younger staff members it’s time to ditch the traditional office layout and go for something less conventional. Millennials despite their reputation are hard working on the whole as well as being career focused. They can be trusted to work in collaborative spaces with flexible furniture.
Millennials Want To See Up-To-Date Technology
Some business owners are hopelessly out of touch with technology and these are the ones that tend to have a high staff turnover. No self-respecting millennial is going to want to work in an office and make do with poor outdated equipment when they have superior technology at home.
The days of travelling to work every day and going through the motions from 9 am until 5pm are coming to an end for many private firms. Flexible working is now demanded by many people as is a flexible approach working remotely. IT infrastructure should be set up to allow this and enable millennials to enjoy a better work life balance.
Improvements in IT and a revolution in the way we work in the past 50 years has led to many businesses opting for smaller offices and many even finding space at home to carry out daily tasks.
As with larger offices however there are still some essentials required to ensure the work environment is comfortable and work can be done efficiently. Here are a few essentials anyone moving into a small office should consider.
The standard and provision of office furniture is important not only for staff but also to create the right impression of your business. Old furniture and broken chairs will demoralise staff and could even be a potential hazard. In business presentation is important and if you want to recruit the best staff and ensure that they are loyal, then early investment in your office space is important.
Ensure utilities are reliable
The last thing you need is a faulty boiler, heating that stops working and disruptions to your energy supplies or phone lines. Having these breakdowns not only harms productivity but it can also disrupt workplace morale. Also ensure that you are on the best deal available to reduce energy costs for your business.
Many small businesses pay little attention to their IT systems until they breakdown. Some high profile cases of hacking should alert business owners to the importance of security and updating software and equipment regularly.
As the way we work continues to change rapidly driven by great technological advances and increased efficiency in workflows there has been a lot of debate on what makes the ideal office layout.
Certainly your office layout is likely to be influenced by the age of the building you find yourself operating in and in some cities it might not even be possible to stray too far from the traditional compartmental spaces.
So let’s look at three common myths about office layouts to help you decide on what’s right for your business.
Open plan is best
If being shut away isolated in a room isn’t for you then you might prefer the collaborative environment of the open space office but for some people this can actually impact on productivity. Open plan offices can get noisy and it may not always be the case they are collaborative. Design can play a major role in making a space work but if owners make it up as they go along then open plan isn’t going to make any difference.
Offices with lots of compartments stifle productivity
Staff might be able to communicate more if they can see each other, but these days even if they can, emails are rapidly becoming preferable to simply walking over to someone’s desk. Often being able to work in peace and quiet can actually boost productivity and you can create collaborative spaces for when they are needed.
Open plan layouts save you money
This may be true in some cases but not always. A large open plan office may end up costing more to heat and it will be difficult to please everyone when it comes to the temperature settings. You may also end up buying more office furniture to fill the space.