How will offices evolve post Covid-19?

Creating the post-pandemic offices will take a mix of short term fixes and long term changes that prioritise keeping workers safe and healthy.

With lockdown easing, the big return is bringing workers back to the office. The challenge for facilities management is how to put hygiene at the heart of the workplace.

Reducing fear and anxiety

As a result of this unprecedented event, we’re all now hyper-aware of health risks when it comes to sharing spaces with our colleagues. A move away from the open-plan office is predicted with the implementation of sneeze guards between workstations mooted as a low-cost measure to address anxiety.

A more radical plan could be a move towards distributed offices. This involves moving away from a centralised hub to smaller offices based around teams working collaboratively closer to home. Not only could this promote a sense of wellbeing, but it also reduces the exposure to Covid-19 on public transport.

Another potential solution is to stagger the workforce, with smaller groups coming into the office at any given time and avoiding rush hour transport. This hybrid style of working between home and office could, in turn, unlock the workplace for a wider talent pool.

The office as hospital

Swapping out natural elements for non-porous surfaces and opting for materials that are safe and hygienic will be a growing influence on future office design. HVAC systems using ultraviolet light will come out into the open to give workers an immediate impression of cleanliness. And handwashing stations are expected to become the new normal with workers washing their hands as they enter and leave the space.

Hospital design is also expected to impact on wayfinding, with the focus on getting from A to B in the most efficient manner. Your office may even become more proactive in the way in which it monitors for sickness, with sensors embodied under desks. These would then alert facilities management when an employee shows signs of fever.

The contactless office

The gradual automation of everything from exercise to flight check-ins should have prepared us well for the shift towards a more contactless future. Offices that can make the switch will use smartphone technology for contactless access to the office and that first cup of coffee. Voice-activated technology will create hands-free meeting rooms, and a simple hand gesture will flush toilets and open doors.

The future is here

In Australia, Dicker Data has already bridged to the post-corona future with the implementation of huge sanitising stations and thermal body scanners. Essential onsite workers arrive in staggered shifts and extra cleaning staff ensure that hygiene standards are maintained.

In the UK, the major retailers have led the way with floor signage, queuing systems and the compulsory use of masks and hand sanitiser. So what’s the takeaway for your office?

Evolving the hygienic office

The safety of your employees is your top priority, now more than ever. The evolution of the office starts with good practice and policies driven by facilities management. Ask yourself whether employees can work from home or be split into multiple teams that work in distributed places or at staggered times?

You need to stay consistent with public health messaging and be flexible enough to create throughways and workspaces that can evolve as the pandemic continues to evolve.