Over the years professional businesses moved from private offices to open floor plans and collaborative workspaces designed to support ease of communication among employees and encourage teams to work effectively together. This is all set to change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that emptied offices and sent professionals home to work. With stay-at-home restrictions being cautiously lifted, the office workspace is being reimagined to address safety and health issues amid the virus outbreak.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, design and furniture companies hired for the makeovers say the virus may even be tilting workplaces back toward a concept they had been moving away from since the Mad Men era: privacy.
Social Distancing in the Office
Real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield recently released its 6 Feet Office concept, after overseeing the return of millions of people to offices in China. The concept uses the ‘six feet rule’ of social distancing to keep areas around desks empty. Occupational experts envision one-way corridors, buffer zones around desks, and clear plastic screens or Plexiglass to guard against colleagues’ coughs and sneezes.
Other ideas being floated include hand sanitizers that are built into desks and positioned at 90-degree angles; air filters that push air down and not up; an outdoor gathering space to allow collaboration without viral transmission; and windows that actually open, for freer air flow.
In addition, we may see the elimination of shared desks and cafes where people congregate to discuss a project. Buffets will be out. Same with the salad bars.
Some businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach before opening their offices and keeping their employees working from home while others may decide to completely shift to remote work. Nationwide, for example, recently announced a hybrid operating model comprised of primarily working-from-office in four main corporate campuses and working-from-home in most other locations.
Time will tell how many companies choose to continue in some form or another with remote work reducing office space requirements, while others will make the modifications necessary to have a safe and creative working environment, which could result in needing additional square footage.
Sources: NY Times, Reuters, Cushman & Wakefield