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Considerations for Covid Safe Workspaces

Design / May 20, 2020

Considerations for Covid Safe Workspaces

Excerpts from interview with Angela on ABC TV News Channel about the future of office design and what businesses will need to do to prepare for a return to work, post COVID-19.

There will be a lot of new measures in workplace design related to wellness, social distancing, shared spaces, how and where we meet. Absolutely everything will need to be rethought in terms of the way we work.

There’s definitely been a move to denser, more populated, open plan workspaces up to this point, with lots of sharing of furniture and equipment and spaces.  Going forward we will need to think will about changing behaviours, about rethinking benchmarks and space standards and looking at how the way we used to use the workplace can be maximised.

Short term modifications to existing workplaces don’t need to be expensive, often it will be a change in behaviour or a repurposing/reengineering of an existing piece of furniture or equipment. Expensive refits are not necessarily needed to be post COVID-19 ready – rather people will be much smarter about how they change their existing workspaces.

No-one really knows how long this will go on for, but its safe to say we need to plan for the short term, medium term and long term future when it comes to renegotiating office design. The short term fixes will be easy to implement, such as only occupying every second desk, or putting up screens between desks or different areas, adding signage and floor markers.

Behavioural changes will be a critical part of workplace health and safety, such as encouraging clockwise circulation paths to minimise cross-contamination of anything airborne.

Medium term initiatives including adding more built rooms, whether they be for meetings, collaborative working or individual use. Longer term initiatives such as a higher use of telepresence to minimise travel will cost more, but the expense of setting this up may be offset against reduced travel costs.

A lot of workplaces had become overcrowded and inefficient, as people tried to circumvent hot desking by reserving space and equipment, and this really defeated the purpose of a shared environment. Workplace hygiene was increasingly a concern for many organisations, even prior to COVID-19.  We will definitely work differently post this pandemic and hot desking will be a thing of the past.

We may look to the past when it comes to office design, potentially ending up having private offices again with smaller, more individually allocated space, rather than so much shared space and amenity.

Working from home at such a scale has given a lot of businesses the opportunity to really test how this works and to then start to determine how to blend ‘home working’ and ‘office working’.

The real test will be when we go part of the week back to the office and then stay home part of the week, and you have a lot of different people blending different scenarios, physically and virtually.

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