As the pandemic continues to scatter our older realities, everyone is curious about how things will turn when we get back to our routines. And one of the most crucial routines will be returning to our offices. It’s been over a month in India and even two-three months in other countries that workplaces have been shut down and work has been taken to homes. Among despair, uncertainty and motivations, we all have stood strong in this situation and now probably the time will be soon when we can be again our old selves. But then, this time may have created a dominant change in our lives, the world economy and certainly in our workplaces. So, what do we go back to? One of our lead designers quoted, “Even though COVID-19 gets over, there will be alterations in our lifestyles and workplace will be one of the most important facets in it.” Therefore, this will be the beginning of a new kind of workplace design that will be more human-concerned and more future-proof. From a design point of view, some of the immediate implementations that workplaces can adopt would be:
- Becoming Digitally Inclined- Be it replacing our touch register systems with voice recognition or face recognition tools or giving personal device access to workplace environment rather than shared devices — there will be some permanent changes in workplace interiors. As the pandemic brings social distancing as one of the prevention steps, workplaces incorporating high-end digital technologies for check-ins and other processing will be indispensable. We must remember that even after all this gets over, people will remain skeptical about sharing spaces as well as devices. So, organizations have to create more contactless processes to help their employees. This will also be a positive change for the future, making workplaces get acquainted with advanced technologies.
2. Rearranging the workstations- It is the time when offices will have to be spacious. As offices reopen, it will be the immediate responsibility for the employers to create spacious work desks for each employee. This will be particularly difficult for workplaces that have dense workstations. In that case, employees will have to occupy alternate work desks to maintain the distance. This is also the time when we can replace the open workstations with partitions in front of every desk to reduce the chances of infection transmission. It is also advisable to rearrange the collaboration areas. While collab spaces remain the heart of open layout offices, this can be the time when the seating dynamics needs to be changed. There can be the inclusion of individual spaces around the office, so that people can work alone in different parts of the office.
3. Practicing different workstyle- Offices that have a dense population and lesser space might have to adopt a few changes in the way they work. Besides the compartmentalization of work desks and other shared spaces, organizations may have to alter working styles. There can be possibilities of incorporating 50% of employees attending the offices alternately while the other half taking work from home in those days. This will lessen the crowd inside the office premises as well as make the social distancing feasible. Other changes may also include the endorsement of virtual team meetings. While working from home has definitely taught us getting more comfortable with online meetings, this can be adapted for the future too. This can also reduce the “travelling for a meeting” in several industries. Companies that have floating crowd or visitors can use separate rooms, so that they remain distinguished from the employees and internal members.
4. Using progressive wellness technologies- Another very important change in the workplace design will be investing more on employee as well as building wellness. COVID-19 brings a realization to all of us to be more attentive towards the health care system of the employees as well as the environment. As an immediate consequence of the pandemic, the office can adopt some progressive tools that can be helpful. One such example is to include Ambient Intelligence tools to record real-time analysis of employees’ health and wellness. Installing Infrared Fever Screening Systems (IFSS) to monitor the health of the staff as well as the visitors can be one of the smart decisions right now. This also goes for adding other ethical data gathering systems or tools that can help make the workplace more reliable and healthier. Using such tools can also aid in creating healthy buildings. For example, organizations can adopt improved air conditioning systems to make sure the building works with healthy internal air systems.
5. Replacing with or including healthful design aspects- Another grave step in checking the wellness in workplaces is to be mindful about the materials and finishes used in designing. Just like the coronavirus, there can be numerous viruses and bacteria that can spread infection through touch. Hence, we should be careful in choosing and sourcing the materials used for designing offices. There is an option already for antimicrobial materials for window shades, paint, door hardware, flooring carpets etc. These all can be implemented immediately to make your existing workplace all the more safe and hygienic.
6. Getting more acquainted with the virtual culture- With weeks of working from home, one thing is clear that we CAN manage certain things remotely. 2020 is a year when we all connected through our virtual screens and completed our work and not just that, we have also learned to collaborate and even innovate through our SKYPE screens; this means that there’s a great chance that this could be the beginning of a more comfortable virtual workplace culture. While setting up the calls and the internet take away time, we should get more effective by integrating virtual connection in the work culture to make it more routine among the employees. Growing an online culture also means organizations can include staff from different branches together at one place without compromising on the distance and space limitations. This step will also be a designated duty of Human Resources to build a strong virtual work culture.
7. Being prepared for what is coming- The pandemic has shattered our conveniences as well as our luxuries in a way that is going to be remembered for a long time. So, when we get back there, we all need to be more empathetic towards each other as well as be prepared for a future of uncertainties. This can be a caution light to create offices and of course, lifestyles that are healthy and considerate. Organization leaders will have to be supportive and that goes for colleagues as well. The pandemic is a crisis that needs personal care as well as a social understanding to fight situations like this together. Therefore, as an immediate response, organizations can be more attentive towards employees by being more supportive about health, work style, as well as hygiene.
COVID-19 is an SOS to create better designs and therefore, better lives by implementing people-centric decisions in workplace design. It brings a whole new urgency of wellness at work that is surely going to last and bring a new future of workplaces.
Originally published at https://www.archilovers.com on April 23, 2020.