The world is always changing and the changes that came with 2020 came quite abruptly. We know change can be challenging at first, but could it be a good thing in the long run?
Commercial Office Environment’s CEO, Sara Cook, thinks the changes we have been dealing with, and will likely continue to see, will actually be good and positive for both our health and productivity.
With the massive popularity of co-working and collaborative spaces before the pandemic, a shift back to more privacy in the workplace with taller dividers and larger work areas is a necessity. The companies who like the more open benching applications will now need to add dividers for workers’ safety (this hasn’t been defined, but I have heard at least 21” above the work surface (50” and taller) and have a minimum of 6’ seated distance between individuals. This is one of the recommendations/ guidelines we are hearing right now as they discover more about the virus and how to stop its spread. Sara suggests if using height-adjustable tables, be sure that the height of the dividers is higher depending on the height range of the table.
“Glass stacks can be a nice addition as they help maintain the open concept and allows for collaboration that’s needed or desired if people need to see each other. Glass also offers the ability to clean with chemicals that can kill the virus as it is not porous so it won’t harbor bacteria and germs. There will be a lot of retrofits and reconfigurations for now to accommodate the necessary changes needed to provide a safe and healthy workplace,” says Sara.
Most companies will want to take advantage of reusing their existing furniture if possible because, for most of us, this accommodation was not something we budgeted to do right now. Sara suggests, “companies need to minimize cost and respond quickly to get their spaces ready for re-entry. I suggest working with your furniture provider to provide an analysis of your existing floor plan to look at recommendations that will work within your budget. There are many product solutions arriving on the market daily/weekly right now to help with keeping everyone as safe as possible. We are seeing mobile screens to divide space as a good option too if you don’t want something permanent right now. Many items are available to ship in a week or 2.”
In the short term to get people accommodated and slowing return to work, companies might want to consider turning their small huddle or conference rooms, that aren’t occupied much of the time, into temporary offices, or any other area underutilized area in their space. If you have Wi-Fi in your space your workers with laptops can sit about anywhere, if comfortable. Most likely, visitation will be limited at offices for some time, so using these areas should help with space allocation if needed. Consideration for staggering the number of people in the space at the same time (shift work) will more than likely be needed especially in larger companies with small work areas where social distancing is difficult. “I think a lot of companies will need to determine who can work remote and who needs to be in the office so they can determine how many people can maximize the space at one time.”
Final thoughts from Sara:
“Long term, I feel we will see larger workstations like we provided in the past (older workstations were usually at least 8 x 8, now users might only get a 2 x 4 area to work with a laptop up to 6 x 6 if they are lucky). Workstations will have taller enclosures and there will be less unassigned workstations. Companies will need more dedicated workstations without sharing any personal devices like computer keyboards, monitors, mice, telephones, task lights, etc. There will be more sanitizing supplies stationed around in the office with protocol on cleaning before and after each use of an area. People might have to clean off their desks every night before they leave the office so germs cannot get on anything. Certainly, the ability to clean properly and the sustainability of materials will be more important than ever, like it has been in the health and education sectors for years now. Perhaps more space will be needed which could be good for the real estate office market down the road and potentially office furniture! Physical space needs will be better determined as we learn more and have more guidance on social distancing recommendations for people in office spaces. Ultimately, we need to ensure the health and safety of everyone to the best of our ability!”