Health experts warn that COVID-19 is not the last pandemic threat we will face in our lifetimes. In reckoning with this new reality, companies are forced to reexamine how we work, do business, and share space.
Those who could work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic are slowly beginning to return to the office. But in many cases, the offices they are coming back to are not the same ones they remember. Coronavirus has created an urgent need to rethink the way that offices are designed so as to support an increasingly remote team, at-work social distancing, and better hygiene.
Here are seven innovative and hygienic office design trends that are set to become part of the New Normal in a post-coronavirus world.
1. Hygienic Wayfinding
Directing the movement of employees and visitors will become increasingly important in order to avoid overcrowding and collisions in the workspace.
- One-way corridors and staircases can keep employees from brushing shoulders.
- Social-distancing floor decals indicating where to sit, stand, and wait can keep employees safe and reduce anxiety.
- Signs placed on work surfaces or seating areas indicate whether the space has been sanitized since last usage.
2. Omni Meeting Rooms
As some employees return to the office while others remain at home, meeting rooms must be able to accommodate both digital and physical participation.
- Flexible, open meeting spaces equipped with speakers, interactive white boards, and wide lens cameras will enable multiple people to meet in person while others can join via webcam.
- Private, sound-proof booths for individual video calls create the right conditions for professional and distraction-free one-on-one digital meetings.
3. Low Touch, High Interaction
Common touch points will be replaced with hands-free alternatives, a mix of hig-tech IoT solutions like voice command and app access, and low-tech solutions like foot pedals.
- Key entry replaced by badge or phone scanners.
- Commonly touched devices like coffee machines can be controlled by app, reducing button pressing.
- Foot pedals eliminate the touching of door knobs.
- Automatic sensors for everything from light switches to water fountains.
4. Working Archipelago
An archipelago is a chain of islands, an apt metaphor for personal workspace in the post-Corona office environment. Innovative design elements help keep employees at a safe distance without isolating them from one another.
- Individual desks are surrounded by circular floor markings, indicating the appropriate distance at which an approaching colleague may stand.
- Translucent plastic barriers serve as desktop partitions, preventing the spread of aerosolized droplets without obstructing vision or light.
- Cubicles make a comeback, but with a much needed modern makeover.
5. Office Supplies, Redefined
Drawing inspiration from medical labs and clean-room environments, office supplies are becoming increasingly focused on hygiene.
- Hand sanitizing stations at strategic, high-traffic areas.
- Disposable thermometers and PPE on hand with the same availability as pens and notepads.
- Hygienic keyboards, mice, and computer screens, especially for devices used by multiple people.
- Single-use daily desk pads made from recycled paper can provide an extra barrier and reduce cleaning.
6. Kinetic Furniture
Few offices will return to working at max capacity anytime soon. With staggered shifts and changing regulations, flexibility is key in making the most of your office space while keeping a safe distance.
- Portable partitions provide privacy and safety in the event that workspaces need to be moved or rearrange to comply with social distancing.
- Large, heavy tables and mounted screens are replaced by lighter, portable variations with wheels.
- Work pods that can be open and shut depending on how many people are present that day.
- Rollable, stackable, collapsible, expandable: furniture can be quickly cleared to make room for group meetings without close quarters.
7. Indoor/Outdoor Workspaces
Enclosed spaces are breeding grounds for airborne diseases. Offices will increasingly embrace the potential for the outdoors to be a healthy and productive workspace.
- Garage-style doors can quickly convert a closed space into an indoor-outdoor patio office
- Alfresco meeting rooms are fully equipped for business with ergonomic work surfaces, with improved wifi signals, sun shading, and electrical outlets.