When you close your eyes and picture a post-COVID office space, what do you see? Probably plexiglass or acrylic shields, bottle of hand sanitizer everywhere, touchless technology. Perhaps it feels sterile, with no personality. The risk we face now is sacrificing comfort for safety, when the reality is we can enjoy both and keep the uniqueness of our company’s brand reflected in the place we work. It’s time to think of office social distancing furniture as an opportunity to freshen up a stale or outdated workspace.
Whether you have an open plan office or a suite of private offices, one floor or multiple floors, a reduced or growing workforce, it’s a great moment to pause, consider, and implement changes that will boost employee morale and put wellbeing on the same level of style.
Let’s look at how to redesign the modern office to support social distancing and good health while keeping color, style, and beautiful design in mind.
Have Clear Objectives
Spend some time with your office floor plan. Based on current post-COVID workplace design trends, what changes do you need to make? Think macro and micro. You may need to take care of little things such as trading out the shared coffee maker for an individual serving Keurig, or gift employees bento lunch boxes and personalized water bottles to cut down on shared dishware in the staff kitchen. Perhaps you need to rethink your open office layout and the way traffic flows through it, redirecting heavy traffic away from cubicles and individual workstations so employees don’t feel like there is constantly someone hovering behind them.
To create a safe office space, you may need to completely overhaul your entire office design. And that’s okay!
It’s important to go through each room or designated space of your office and make notes for each room. Make sure to answer the following questions:
- How can we improve the safety and sanitation in this room?
- How can we make it feel warm and inviting as a workspace?
- How can we preserve focus, creativity and productivity in this room?
- How will we reflect our company’s sense of style?
Be realistic and honest. Make notes as if money weren’t an issue. Don’t think about budget yet, just think about solutions. When you’re making notes for these objectives, you’ll start to understand how big of an investment in time, furniture, environment upgrades, and personalized features you’ll need.
Enabling Collaboration Through Design
Collaboration and social distancing…can the two actually co-exist? Absolutely.
Your office social distancing furniture can be configured and established in such a way that fosters community and visual transparency. Office spaces have always had collaborative office furniture, and particularly in the rise of open plans, collaboration spaces began to replace the larger and traditional conference rooms of days past. Smaller touchdown spaces, from freestanding acoustic pods to huddle corners for videoconferencing and relaxed resimercial hubs to relax in a living room-like environment, became the norm.
These solutions will continue, with a heightened security awareness and a dedication to sanitize the space after each use so small groups can use it multiple times per day.
Collaborative office furniture facilitates a creative, relaxed environment where team members can come together for the next collaborative meeting or impromptu brainstorming session. 80% of meetings today are held between 1-4 people.
To maintain a sense of style combined with smart and healthy best practices, a company will need high performing collaborative furniture designs that can be configured: collaboration tables in huddle rooms, collaboration chairs as breakout area seating in open office designs, touchdown spaces outside in-demand project rooms. The trick is to keep collaboration spaces agile with a variety of configurations spread throughout the office to meet everyone’s comfort level and need.
Reconfigure Your Existing Office Layout
Use office social distancing furniture to reconfigure your existing office layout. Instead of small private offices, use those rooms as small collaborative office spaces or huddle rooms and create a socially distanced and private open office layout with standing desks, modular workstations, acoustic pods and phone booths for calls, and more.
Your new floor plan will depend on your seating capacity. If you need to increase distance between employees but can’t space out desks anymore, using social distancing protective screens between cubicles or desks may help. These screens come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from freestanding and movable screens to additions that can adjust to sit-stand desks and keep employees safe whether they’re standing or sitting.
The most important priority is personal space. Make sure everyone feels comfortable with enough personal space or has access to a huddle room or touchdown space that can feel like their very own, even for just thirty minutes for a break. Employees need plenty of space to unwind, breathe, and refocus…now more than ever.
Flexible Desk Spaces
If you must decrease seating capacity in your office building by having half your workforce working remotely and half in the office, this personal space will become even more important.
Make sure your employees who are returning to work feel special and well cared for, because perks like pool tables and happy hours are things of the past. “Perks” now are longer breaks or more frequent breaks to de-stress, increased wellness plans, holistic and green office spaces, and flexible desk spaces.
Your open plan should accommodate standing desks and private seated desks. Social distancing cubicles should feature higher walls for better division and shielding while utilizing materials that still let natural light in. Invest in a new round of great office chairs, and increase the style factor with colorful touches through filing cabinets, desk finishes, chairs, lighting and even social distance dividers!
The possibilities are endless when it comes to redesigning your office to enforce social distancing and keeping the style that makes coming to work fun. Give your employees a place to be proud of!
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