How COVID-19 will change your office
Since the Covid-19 pandemic closed offices across the world, Office Reality has been advising and guiding people concerned about reopening and reconfiguring their workplaces. To reactivate the economy and boost business, some of us must return to the office, but in a way which minimises the risk of infection. It’s time to think about how to reconfigure existing furniture and introduce new equipment to keep everyone safe.
The number of people returning to work will be reduced significantly. Those that can work from home should continue to do so to achieve social distancing, and workspaces will need to change in order to adhere to Government guidelines and pass Covid-19 workplace risk assessments.
Below, we have created some Before and After Lockdown visuals of office layouts showing possible workplace changes which support social distancing and increased hygiene measures.
The Reception Area pre-Covid-19 pandemic
For most businesses, their reception area is seen as the statement area. It’s the one space that can provide staff and visitors with a glimpse of a company’s ethos which in turn captures culture and brand values. The example below shows a typical reception layout with a desk, a centralised recess for wheelchair access (DDA compliant), sofas and coffee height tables.
The Reception Area post — Covid-19 pandemic
For the same reception area post-Lockdown, we recommend the introduction of a floor standing screen with informational graphics. The reception counter has been retrofitted with protective thermoformed clear acrylic screens providing protection for the user and visitor, whilst maintaining clear visibility. A non-fixed counter protection screen, with a document pass through gap, has also been added. The sofas are replaced with two single tub chairs and integral writing tablets to support laptops and tablets minimising the risk of contamination. A hand sanitisation station is clearly visible when entering and exiting the reception area.
The Breakout Area pre- Covid-19 pandemic
This is a typical example of a Breakout area pre-lockdown which includes high benches and meeting tables. This area can accommodate 28 people with 16 seated at the round tables and space for a further 12 on the high bench tables. With no hygiene restrictions previously, there was no limitation on the number of people using the kitchen area.
The Breakout Kitchen Area post — Covid-19 pandemic
In Breakout areas, human movement, social interaction and conversations are more likely than in other spaces in the workplace. To make the areas safe for people to return to work post-Covid-19, tables and chairs have been spaced to ensure safe distancing and mobile glazed floor screens have been introduced to define the area, as shown in the image below. The capacity has been reduced by 40% and accommodates a maximum of 12 people.
The 2m safety distance must always be respected, but when face to face communication is necessary, sneeze screens should be installed to lower the risk of transmission. Hygiene points need to be in place near tables and high benches for cleaning before and after use. Think about installing protective screens which have a softer organic appearance such as the Conrad rustic wood protection screens and the quirky picket garden fence screen.
The Main Office
In this example, the capacity of the room has reduced by 50%, from 16 desks to eight, in order to keep with social distancing guidelines. To accommodate all 16 employees, we recommend that all seats remain and the team is split into shifts — morning and afternoon or alternate days — wiping down all equipment after use. The 2m recommended safety distance should be always be respected and protection screens have been added to provide greater security for each person. Hygiene points and hand sanitisers have become a must and a clear desk policy is now in place. Personal storage has also been introduced in the form of mobile pedestals and fixed lockers.
Management Cell Offices 1 & 2
A typical management office traditionally saw a large desk with a return storage unit and two visitor chairs. However, with social distancing measures in place, we recommend removing the second visitor’s chair and replace it with a small ‘pull up’ side table for any documents or laptops.
Meeting Room 1 — capacity pre-Covid-19 of 8–10 people
A meeting room of this size would now need a reduced chair count from eight to four, a 50% reduction. The tables should be repositioned for individual use. The meeting room should only be used when essential, and meeting times should be reduced to around 15–30 minutes.
Meeting Room 2 — capacity pre-Covid-19 of 6 people
A room for six could be used by four people safely by introducing smaller ‘satellite tables’ for each person who cannot access the main table. In the image, the table has also been rotated by 45 degrees to encourage the occupants to sit diagonally, and therefore ensure a safe distance between all four people. The meeting room should only be used when essential and meeting times should be reduced to 15–30 minutes. A TV screen has been added to this room in response to a rise in video conferencing, which stems from the onset of homeworking and a paradigm shift regarding this communication tool.
It’s natural that your employees may have concerns about returning to the workplace but as our guides above have shown, it is possible to resume office working safely and effectively.