As many countries begin to reopen after weeks of shelter-in-place orders, what can we expect for the future of office design and what will the post-pandemic office space look like?
The post-pandemic office space is an inevitable reality. For those of us in the business of office design, the past weeks and months were filled with changes and hanging questions. After three months of empty office spaces, businesses around the world are turning an eye toward reopening. With many of the population having spent most of this year working remotely and health guidelines still in place in many regions, these first stages are quite tentative.
When discussing the future of the office, there are a few key points to consider. Firstly, that offices will most definitely be reopening. Many people have settled into a remote world by now, but even those companies in the business of online and remote technology are feeling the strain of a world without the office. Both Google and Facebook are taking steps to bring a portion of their workforce back into their physical offices in the near future.
Now is the perfect time for designers to get in on the ground floor for the new normal of office design. Offices will need to undergo quite a makeover for workers to remain safe and comfortable. In light of this inevitability, we’ve put together some important design factors that will affect the post-pandemic office space.
The six-foot distance rule which we all are trying hard to stick with is in fact a bare minimum. Offices designed with collaboration in mind will have to rethink their spacing patterns. The debate as to whether the open office concept will prove a winner is settled by the knowledge that - if perhaps not out of the race completely - it is at least for now taking a long siesta on the sidelines. Nevertheless, an advantage exists within an open office plan. It is a versatile and easily modified space. Watch out for redesigns taking place in large collaborative office buildings.
One-way foot traffic has already been implemented in supermarkets and other aisle-based businesses where many people are moving about in close proximity. Expect traffic patterns in hallways and open areas of office buildings as well. Workstations will need to be revisited by designers as well. Desks should be further apart, shared work areas should be separated, and all surfaces will need to be clutter free and easy to clean.
Netherlands based company Cushman & Wakefield recently introduced their new “Six Feet Office” concept in an effort to meet the new health guidelines and provide an example for the future.
Okay, Let’s Have a Good, Clean Workspace
Hygiene is certainly one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy post-pandemic office space. Hand washing stations will be liberally placed throughout. Touchless technology will come into the forefront of design with regard to doorways, cafeterias, workstations and other commonly used aspects of work life.
Air filtration systems will be updated. Most office buildings use recycled air and have limited or no fresh air from the outside. Interestingly, many businesses in China have already implemented new technology for air-quality control. This has allowed Chinese offices to reopen at a much faster pace than many other countries.
Materials used in workplace construction will need to be adapted for ease of sanitation. Non-porous and bleach-safe fixtures and surfaces will play a key role in rebuilding the modern office.
How Green Was My Office Space
Satellites Flashing By
While larger office buildings will need to be re-configurated to fit with health standards, another trend we may very well be seeing is a workforce split up between satellite offices spread out in strategic locations. These smaller, highly sanitized satellite locations will allow for less commute time as well as the health advantage of housing less employees and lower cost of upkeep.
The past few months have tested the ability of businesses to continue operations in a company-wide work from home environment. As offices reopen, only certain portions of employees will be able to come back to the office at first. Offices may likely become hubs for all business operations which cannot be smoothly practiced remotely. With a large percentage of the workforce continuing to work from home, companies will need to rethink how they utilize their physical space and collaborate with remote technology. Long-term leases on larger buildings may become less desirable in favor of smaller, cheaper locations.
Pick the One Right Tool
The opportunity is here for office designers to take the center stage in the development of a healthy future for the post-pandemic office space. The ability to quickly reimagine and create the modern office will largely depend upon the ability of a designer to properly configure these new and unexpected standards into a practical resource for reconstruction. Trying to keep up with modern trends and necessities with outdated tools brings to mind a quote from Cormac McCarthy concerning a carpenter “whose work went so slowly for the dullness of his tools that he had no time to sharpen them”.
With the intermission provided by remote work protocols, now is the perfect time to sharpen up those tools of yours. 2020 Office provides a diverse and cutting-edge array of office design solutions to help the modern designer thrive in the modern world.
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