A year into the pandemic, people are beginning to realize that we will need to be living with this virus for some time to come. The measures that were put in place to contain it and slow down the spread will likely need to remain even after the vaccine rollout is complete.
The way it affected business is that remote working has become far more common than it ever had and it seems like that will stick around. There are some types of businesses that do need people to still go into an office. Making sure that the employees are safe is extremely important.
Many provisions need to be put into place to be able to ensure the safety of the employees is seen to. We may not see the end of this virus for a few more years so it is likely that many of the changes made to an office will be the default going forward. In this article, I will go over how businesses need to redesign their offices to meet the new reality.
Your newly redesigned office will look a bit different than what you may have been used to from before the pandemic. The office layout will have to incorporate enough space to maintain a 6 foot distance from their coworkers. Not only that, but even the through spaces need to be planned so that there are no bottlenecks when people are going from one end of the office to another. It isn’t enough just for them to be spread out while they are seated at their desk.
The size of the desks is going to matter for both new and used office furniture as the chair needs to be positioned in a way that it is going to be easy to maintain that distance no matter where one chooses to sit at the desk. There has been a trend of late to go with smaller and more narrow desks since many computers are so small now. If that’s the case in your office then that will need to change.
Common areas will need to be repurposed since there can be no congregating in them now. If you do decide to keep using them, then you will need to set up a schedule so that people can only go in when they have their designated time.
Otherwise, that area can be used as more office space by housing the workstations that were likely lost when the rest of the office needed to be moved around.
Open plans are back
Back in the 1990s, the open plan office concept was very widespread. It seemed to be the optimal solution to the new work culture of the time. It was thought that an open office was a good way to promote collaborative working and that people would be more likely to become more social.
The problem emerged that removed any possible benefit that an open office might have provided. Many businesses took the opportunity to cram as many desks as possible into this open space to be able to use a smaller office space and have the same amount of employees.
Over time, the open office started getting phased out again as it actually worsened the office culture in most companies. And with the pandemic, the desks were simply too close together.
Now, open plans are back as there is more space to move people further away from each other. Open offices have better ventilation which is crucial to be able to clear out contaminated air. Many companies in China and Israel are using a ventilation system that is able to get rid of many pathogens that stop the spread.
There is also less of a possibility of spreading by touch. With an open plan there are fewer times when a door is opened or you have to touch something while making your way around the office. An open office is also easier to clean up and keep sanitized.
Limit outside exposure
While you don’t want to cram people into an office for the whole day where they can be breathing in contaminated air, you also don’t want them to go out to where things are not as sanitized and where distancing can be an issue.
Going to lunch in a crowded diner, or having to take the subway or metro is a sure way to expose them to unnecessary risk. Even standing in line at a food truck that is outside puts them in the vicinity of potentially contagious people.
The way around this is to find a way to allow people to be able to stay in the clean workspace and have lunch there. You can cater your office lunch and have people eat in the boardrooms in limited numbers. Make a schedule and put people in groups so you can limit how many people are in the room at once and have it sanitized in between seatings. Otherwise, you can rent out a space outside the building but close enough for people to walk and have them go there to eat. This way you are sure the place is sanitized and that strict distancing measures are in place.
Rent more space
If your office is too small to do any of these things then this may be a good time to look at leasing a larger space. You could even just rent another office in addition to the one you already have so you can make sure there is enough space for people to properly distance. You could even have a new space done from the ground up that has the space plus the infrastructure to install the latest in ventilation technology to keep the air clean in the office.
This is going to be expensive and a challenge in many ways to pull off. But, don’t wait for the virus to go away and then think things will be fine. Be proactive now just in case there isn’t an end to this virus any time soon.