How Will Our Office Spaces Adapt Amid The Pandemic And Beyond? (Part 2)

Last week we discussed the downfalls of an open office arrangement. Employees begin to socially withdraw when crammed together and disease has the potential to spread like wildfire with minimal barriers separating employees. Businesses will have to consider all the spaces people move through in an office setting in addition to the desk arrangements. Questions like,What do you do in an elevator? Corridors? Hallways?” will all have to be answered in addition to a plethora of others. In this post we will take a look at the changes to office spaces that could come to fruition in the near future 

 To reduce infectious contact, employers are considering solutions such as staggered arrival times, directing office foot traffic, staging areas for elevators and temperature checks at work. The Meridian Kiosk is a great tool for keeping both employees and customers safe by conducting a temperature check to all that enter. Companies across the board have resorted to reducing amounts of seating in gathering places, such as lounges and conference rooms. Another idea that companies have been trending towards is creating oneway hallways and even planning to issue new distancing guidelines for their clients. Uber, for example, is planning to get its staff back to their offices in San Francisco, but with only 20 percent of staff allowed in the building on a given day. Businesses could also increase cleaning rotations, using virus-killing ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces, install air filters and invest in more touch-free technology, such as automatic sinks and doors. Having a crowded and unsanitary workspace will only lead to psychological stress for employees due to fear of infection. People need personal space, natural lighting and enough quiet to concentrate in order to be reach max productivity. 

 Numerous experts are predicting that our society’s awareness of contagious diseases will influence a new type of office space for businesses. For instance, office spaces with elements consistent with that of a hospital could become common. One of the biggest challenges is trying to find materials that can withstand heavy cleansing using sanitation products. Surfaces like natural oiled wood will be steered clear of and surfaces like stone or laminates will be preferred. You can also expect to see solution-dyed carpets with a good moisture barrier backing used underneath. These carpets can better withstand heavy shampooing leading to cleaner floors. Cost is obviously a huge concern in these strained economic times, few businesses and organizations will have the budget for an expensive remodel. Luckily, the beforementioned materials are more durable, but not necessarily more expensive.  

Discussion about air filtration systems that use ultra-violet light has also been heating up recently. Companies may have to look at heavy UV cleaning when everyone has gone home to make sure that the work environment is clean as well as the air in the building. Another intriguing concept that might emerge in the near future is a contactless office. Experts predict this could become widespread among organizations who can afford it. An example of a contactless office would be employees eliminating the need to press communal buttons by only using their smartphone to send commands to elevators or even your staff coffee machine. The conference rooms could also be fitted out with voice-activated technologies, controlling lighting, audio and visual equipment. Passing through doors or even flushing toilets would only require a simple wave. Any and all ideas are on the table to help prevent the spread of disease.  

The COVID-19 pandemic will force employers to mull over new protocols and floor plans to make offices healthier and safer. Unfortunately, the sad reality is many offices will not be able to afford renovations so employers may consider having their employees forgo the office altogether. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago showed that up to 37 percent of U.S. jobs could be done remotely. The telework trend has been gaining momentum, but can be a tough pill to swallow for businesses who enjoy the culture they have created in their offices. After all, having a central place to gather and collaborate in person will always remain essential to many. However, there are many companies that now offer communication and collaboration tools for remote work to ensure employees are just as productive at home as they are in the office, such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive; 8×8 or Mitel telephone systems; and much more. As a technology designer and integrator, CCCP can help assess your environment and employee’s general work, and make suggestions to ensure productivity and collaboration across your organization. 

Whatever may happen in the near future, even if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, it seems likely that the experience of living through a pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way we work and even how our workplaces function. If all else fails, the idea of coming to work while sick could become socially unacceptable. Overall, the changes focused on health and hygiene that are bound to come, if they haven’t already, will be so pronounced that it will give new meaning to the idea of working in a sterile environment.