COVID-19 has forever changed the workplace

COVID-19 has forever changed the workplace.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be challenged to rethink how we behave, utilize and design traditional workspaces. Knowing this an evolving situation, here is our best guess as to what’s to come and how we can properly prepare for a safer workplace.

It’s safe to say the open office approach will no longer work. For most companies, though, a complete redesign won’t be realistic. Instead, we recommend several modifications and safety measures that can transform an open office into a safer, healthier work environment.

For saturated desk areas, separation panels can help reduce airflow across individual workstations. Humanscale recently launched a new separation panel offering to meet this growing need. Hot-desking may go away entirely in the short-term in favour of every employee having a dedicated space to avoid cross-contamination.

For office seating, it will be important to choose chairs that don’t accumulate dust and are easy to clean. If the textile is porous, it will likely release a cloud of dust, which could hold bacteria and viruses. Select non-porous, wipeable upholstery and optionally anti-microbial.

A mesh chair is better than an upholstered chair with a porous covering but not as good as a chair with a non-porous, wipeable covering. In general, a non-porous covering is the easiest to clean surfaces.

When it comes to behaviours in the workplace, it will be important to encourage employees to adopt healthy practices. For instance, to help preserve social distancing, figure out the most effective routes around the office and have one direction for people to walk in.

You can use visual cues and signage to promote social distancing. It may be wise to have a policy where people should wear masks in communal areas like the kitchen or bathroom, or when visiting other areas of the office. Since communal spaces have the greatest potential for spreading germs, think about placing hand sanitizer, wipes or wash stations throughout the office, especially near high-touch areas.

For individual workspaces, it will be important to empower employees to keep their individual spaces and work equipment (personal keyboard and mouse) clean.

To reduce overall density, consider putting a cap on occupancy to ensure proper distancing and then gradually increase the occupancy rate when appropriate.

In addition to a reimagined workplace, we believe that the new way of working will be more open to working from home. No matter what the future holds, it will become paramount that employees are provided with safe and healthy solutions whether working at home or the office.