As we patiently wait at home during lockdown, the world and how we function within it is changing, with the workplace being a key area perplexing many on how we can make it workable again. From packed out commuter trains to busy and crowded open plan offices, there are so many facets to the working world that need to be addressed to enable teams to return to work safely and comfortably.
The last few months have seen major changes to how shops have adapted to meet customers’ needs within the parameters of the Government’s guidance on social distancing. From limiting numbers of people allowed in at one time to social distancing floor signage and protective screens at checkouts, it’s fair to say most of us are now adapting to this as our ‘new normal’, however strange it may feel.
So how will these measures evolve within offices and other businesses, to enable us to return to work safely?
A strong amount of evidence points towards these same social distancing rules being applied to the workplace, with the BBC having seen a draft document from the Government stating that “additional hygiene procedures, physical screens and the use of protective equipment should be considered where maintaining distancing of 2m (6ft) between workers is impossible”. Vice News also predicts that “in order to minimize risk and assuage employee fears, responsible employers will need to fundamentally restructure their offices to adapt to new social-distancing and hygiene guidelines, which could remain in place until a vaccine has been approved”.
Many are anticipating a move away from the ever-popular trend of open plan offices, a layout most businesses embraced to bring teams closer together and to keep costs low following the recession, with its ability to seat a larger number of employees in one place. Arjun Kaicker, Head of Analytics and Insights at Zaha Hadid Architects explained to The Guardian that “office desks have shrunk over the years, from 1.8-metre to 1.6-metre, to now 1.4-metre and less, but I think we’ll see a reversal of that, as people won’t want to sit so close together.” He also predicts that new laws could be brought in to enforce a minimum area per person in offices and lower the cap or occupancy in lifts (Metro).
Another aspect to consider is that many staff members will have embraced the privacy and quiet of working from home, with studies showing that home workers worked an average of 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year (Inc.com). With this in mind, businesses will need to look at how they can leverage their employees’ ability to be more productive in private spaces and re-evaluate the office layout to optimise this.
So taking all this into account, how does a company go about implementing this? As business owners ourselves, we were very aware we would need to adapt our open plan office to enable our team to safely return to work in the coming months. However, we were concerned about how this ‘new normal’ might materialise, as we still wanted to provide an environment that felt friendly and comfortable, instead of clinical and cold.
With a number of news outlets including Vox writing that updated layouts could involve “more private spaces or personal offices for individuals, and more distance between desks”, we realised that we had an interesting opportunity to use our modular exhibition solutions to create contemporary desk screens, dividers and self-contained office pods. We could use them in such a way that would allow the office to still be open and friendly, whilst also ensuring our team are safe returning to work. In creating attractive, private desk areas that also help maintain strong hygiene levels through the use of wipeable, anti-bacterial surfaces, we believe we are creating a new workplace that really bridges the gap between at-home and office based working from both a focus and safety perspective.
Whilst working on these desk and office solutions it also got us thinking about how we can use our custom workshop to create other safety products that support teams in returning to the office. From utilising our lovely print room to create social distancing signage to using the ingenuity of our all-round craftsman Aiden and his team to create sanitisation and temperature checking stations, we developed a variety of different protection options to help both our team and others feel safe and considered on their return to work.
It’s fair to say the future workplace will be quite different and will likely be looked at in an entirely new light, but we truly believe our solutions will give companies like us comfort in knowing that they’ll be easing their teams into this ‘new normal’ in a responsible and positive way.
If you want to join us in getting your team safely back to work, explore our desk screens, dividers and office pods here and our social distancing solutions here.
If you’d like to speak to a member of our team directly, feel free to contact us here.