5 Most Important Post-Covid Trends in Office Spaces
As organizations plan for people to return to the office after COVID-19, they need a strategy for the physical work environment that follows new safety protocols and allows people to create, collaborate and be productive.
The key considerations when retrofitting office spaces now or reconfiguring your office furniture in the near term are:
1. Density: The number of people per sq. ft/m
2. Geometry: How the furniture is arranged
3. Division: Using screens, panels or barriers
The 5 most important trends that are shaping office layout and furniture choices in a post-covid world are as follows:
1. Prioritize Physical Distancing:
The challenge that many offices face is ensuring a six-foot distance between workstations – which governments may or may not continue to mandate. Regardless, employees will feel safer knowing their employer is providing a workstation with the appropriate social distance so they can focus on output, instead of worrying about getting sick.
Office desks have shrunk over the years, mostly because our technology (phones, computers, printers, fax machines) has either become obsolete or shrunk as well. Will our desks increase in size to create proper social distance boundaries, or will we provide more free space between them? Ultimately this will be up to each business.
Businesses who have relied on open layouts in the past may opt to continue using large tables to serve multiple workers (especially those who are on a flexible work schedule and only in the office a few times a week or month, which we predict will only continue to grow in numbers). Still, chairs will need to be staggered around the tables (or “hot-desks”) to ensure the proper six-foot distance. For instance, a table that once could fit 8 people may now have to accommodate only 3. But, those 5 other employees may be able to work from home those days. Additionally, businesses may add “workstation enclosures” like transparent plastic or glass screening panels that can protect employees but still allow them to see one another and interact.
If you are a business where people cannot work from home, for the most part, you’ll have to either invest in new, more traditional desks that create a safe distance between employees or redesign the tables in your space to accommodate the new guidelines. In many cases, this can mean needing a new space plan to modify your existing space or taking larger space to safely accommodate the same number of employees.
When thinking about workstations, it might also be a good idea to invest in personal laptops, tablets, or phones for your employees. Workstations can become minimal if you limit what’s on them, and giving every employee their own devices that they can commute with and are responsible for will limit the number of wires and desk objects and help keep your office space clean and healthy.
2. Open Floor Plans Aren’t Bad And Aren’t Going Anywhere
The trend of open office spaces is not going anywhere – even if research points to them not being so productive. First and foremost, open floor plans are much easier to clean and limit the amount of surface areas employees will touch. Door handles, cubical openings, and arms of chairs are some of the most touched objects in offices, making offices safe from a distancing perspective but perhaps relatively unsafe from a germ spreading perspective. Similarly, more likely than not every office uses the same HVAC system, which is known to spread COVID-19 and other pathogens.
We know proper ventilation is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens, and having an open floor plan where you can open up windows would quickly improve office ventilation. If you can’t open your windows or doing so won’t ventilate the entire area, it may be time to invest in an office climate control system that companies throughout China have adapted.
3. A Heightened Focus On Furniture, Appliances, And Finishes
We’ll need to future-proof our environments with the use of adaptable furniture, careful selection of finish materials easy to sanitize and antimicrobial, and 21st-century appliances and technology that limit touching and make our office spaces more efficient.
Furniture: Lightweight, kinetic and flexible furniture that is easily movable, reconfigured, and sanitized will help ensure that you are keeping your employees safe and providing you with the flexibility to change your floor plans when needed. Additionally, microfibre couches and chairs are great for cleaning up spills. They have an excellent reputation for being functional all-around fabrics designed to withstand heavy use yet are easy to maintain. To clean a microfiber sofa, all you need to do is put some alcohol on a damp cloth and clean the area by rubbing it in a circular motion. Read our post: COVID-19 and the Future of Office Furniture.
Finishes: Some finishes are much easier and cheaper to clean than other surfaces. In addition to microfiber, there are self-cleaning surfaces prime for offices. Self-cleaning surfaces are a class of materials with the inherent ability to remove any debris or bacteria from their surfaces in a variety of ways.
4. Smaller Conference Rooms
With a mandate to de-densify offices, many employers will further embrace flexible work and allow more employees to telecommute. But what does that mean for our offices? Since some employees will still be working from the office, businesses will need to ensure employees can connect frequently and more seamlessly. You can have two people working in a smaller meeting room (while still keeping a social distance) communicating with those who are working from home. This means it may be time to up your office AV game. It is an investment that should have a big return. More meeting rooms (that use swinging or motion sensor doors – or no doors at all) will ensure teams are still regularly connecting and working efficiently.
5. Use the latest technology
While we think of computers and apps when we mention technology, also there are a lot of innovations in materials and product design that are also a critical part of technology. The product development team at Stellar has always worked with the latest technology and tools to develop cutting edge products, but now with the impact of Covid and a heightened sense of safety and concern for the well being of our customers, we have also developed a whole range of anti-viral and anti-microbial furniture that is easy to clean and resistant to most known pathogens. These are certified by reputed independent laboratories like SGS. Get in touch with our sales team to know more about the Stellar range of anti-pandemic chairs.
If you are an interior designer, architect, project manager or office administrator creating, recreating, furnishing or refurbishing your office for a safe post-pandemic experience for your teams, get in touch with us to see how we can help.