Space Planning for the New Workplace

covidofficefeature

March of 2020 began a significant period of adjustment for our everyday lives that included working from home, virtual learning, and social distancing. Now, as we go back to in person school and back to the office, we must again adjust to a new way of doing things. COVID is still with us, and distancing guidelines and restrictions still apply. As we work to keep our offices healthy and safe, redesigning your workspace may be a necessity.

What does this mean?

Arranging a workspace to be efficient and productive can be tricky enough – now we need to keep ourselves socially distant while still being able to work together. Conference and meeting rooms are being used less and less in the post-pandemic work force, as they cannot guarantee a safe distance from one another. So, how do you design your space to achieve all these contradictions?

  • Open workspaces – many professions have adapted a studio-like work area. Many of their employees share a large singular room, with desks arranged often in rows or clusters. This is a great start – however, with needing to remain socially distant from one another, this may not be enough. It often takes up a lot of room to create clusters of desks and creates a disjointed path of circulation through the work area.
  • Wipeable/Scrubbable surfaces and dividers – most workstations already adhere to this, but dividers can sometimes be upholstered to give a workspace a pop of color or to break up the monotony of a space.
  • Natural light – more employees are requesting access to natural light. This has been proven to contribute to higher energy levels and health overall. Of course, you may not have the option to add windows to your space. Your designer can work with you to choose the best artificial lighting for your work environment.
  • Conference and Meeting rooms – Do we get rid of these spaces altogether – or dedicate larger spaces to these needs? Many companies have gone to all virtual meetings, while others have restricted the number of people who can be in a space together at a time. This is helpful, but when a project continues to grow, sometimes it is necessary to get the whole team together in one room.

What can we do?

There are plenty of ways to keep your employees healthy and productive while still adhering to the new rules of the world. From space planning an existing space, to fitting out a building, to designing an entire new facility – the possibilities are endless. Architects can design all of these with the following in mind:

  • Open workspaces while keeping socially distant – this may include physical barriers to define space, while keeping the space open to air changes and creative collaboration.
  • Wipeable and Scrubbable surfaces – there are many ways to liven up an office while being able to disinfect the entire area.
  • Natural light – whether you are designing a new facility or retro-fitting an existing space; you need to know the best way to utilize the sunlight you can get. Even in a studio environment where rows or clusters of desks may be used, you can still expose the entire room to light, which leads to more alertness and increased productivity.
  • Conference and Meeting rooms – although unconventional, it is possible to bring the client into the studio for a meeting. A work space can be arranged around a large central conference space, which not only allows people to feel more comfortable out in the open; it also allows a peak into the behind-the scenes of what goes into your work/product.

A proper space plan can do wonders for any office space. With the world changing and being more aware of the spread of germs, we must adapt and evolve. Change is hard and many don’t know where to begin; it is more than just rearranging an office. It is changing the entire way you think about a space. Work environments should be a safe and healthy place for all. To achieve this goal, while maintaining a collaborative feeling, consult with an architect to seamlessly make this evolution to our new work world.

-Stefanie Wiegand, Architectural Designer