We are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. Some states have already lifted pandemic restrictions, travel and entertainment are increasing, and restaurants and retail stores are coming back to life. For the millions of Americans who have been working remotely, we are also seeing a shift back into the corporate office. While plastic dividers and floors taped off at 6-foot increments may have become familiar safety precautions, designers are looking at more permanent solutions for the office.
How will the Physical Space Change?
- Hybrid offices allowing for part time in person and part time remote work are becoming increasingly popular. In this setting, more square footage will be dedicated to smaller collaborative spaces and less to individual workstations.
- Technology and video conference calling have permanently changed meeting options. Smaller, and more conference rooms will allow access to the technology needed for remote meetings, while also allowing for fewer people to be in the same room at the same time.
Staying Healthy in the Office:
- Air flow: Public health officials agree that one of the simplest ways to prevent the indoor spread of germs and viruses is to increase the volume of outside air that comes into buildings. This can be accomplished by installing windows that can be manually opened and closed. If operable windows are not an option such as in large office buildings or places where it isn’t safe for children, a new air filtration system should be considered.
- Touch free surfaces: Installing automatic doors, faucets, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers can curb the spread of germs to keep employees healthy.
- Hand washing: Handwashing has been proven to help decrease the spread of germs. Increasing the amount of hand washing stations and/or hand sanitizing stations (especially at entrances and exits) will encourage employees to wash their hands frequently during the workday.
Taking a Nod from Nature:
Research shows that regular contact with nature boosts physical and mental health, as well as productivity. Employers are recognizing this and looking for creative ways for their staff to encounter nature.
- Installing living walls and maximizing natural light is a great way to bring the outdoors inside.
- Designing a green outdoor area where employees can eat lunch or take breaks is a great way for employees to have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy fresh air.
As we begin our new work normal, one thing is clear – employees’ health and well-being will need to be a priority. In navigating our post pandemic world, it is important to consult with an architect to safely design your office for the return of in-person work.