I think what we can all be sure of is that things will never be the same again. The pandemic Covid-19 will affect almost every decision in workspace changes. And, I believe we will need to make several allowances before team members will feel happy and safe in their working environments. The principles of social distancing will not be forgotten in a hurry, and this will give a fresh impetus on how personal space is used and protected.
The new era of the office
There have been some great projects over the last few years introducing hot desking and agile working principles, reducing wasted space, allowing for smaller premises and lower overheads, all while allowing teams to have greater autonomy and freedom, while feeling trusted to do their best work. Was this all for nothing now we are living in a new era? In my opinion, although many adaptions and tweaks will need to be made, the basic principles will remain the same. We will, however, need to ensure as best we can that workstations are clean and sanitised before the next user, and that we are suitably protected. Here are some ideas to think about;
- Extended height wipeable privacy screens to protect workstations.
- Using desk materials with antibacterial properties that are easy to clean and maintain.
- Setting up a cleaning system, so desks are regularly sanitised, and having the equipment available for self-cleaning prior to use.
- Clear desk policies making cleaning quicker and more efficient.
- Baseless monitor mounts, so there are less bacteria traps.
- Advanced, properly maintained air conditioning such as Ultraviolet systems.
- Fresh natural air, utilising office plants and windows.
- Reduce wasted space and plan the office so there is less front on working using a zigzag formation.
Making changes quickly and being open to how people feel, and their suggestions will be a big influence on maintaining your staff making them feel valued.
What have we learnt in these unprecedented times?
During this period where a huge percentage of teams have been working from home, some major benefits have been highlighted.
We need to look at bringing the office to our homes, and our homes to the office
- There is less congestion on roads and less traffic pollution.
- Productivity has been shown to have increased in many studies.
- Greater collaboration through various video conferencing applications.
- Decreased carbon footprint due to energy saving in offices.
- Ability to exercise at lunchtime, instead of eating a sandwich you don’t really want whilst scrolling through social media. A healthy company is a happy company.
- Team members are not late for work (tripping over the cat on the way in is not a great excuse!)
Some companies have been reluctant to allow working from home in the past, as you need to have a flexible and reliable IT infrastructure and you also need to trust your staff to supervise themselves.
Although these hurdles have not gone away, the option of work from home is one that I believe is here to stay. So how can we integrate this fully into our working week? I believe we need to look at bringing the office to our homes, and our homes to the office. The flexibility of different furniture, controllable individual lighting and flexible working times are easy wins to bring back to the office environment. Break out spaces with sofas and stools, desk lighting and a time tracking system, can be implemented straight away. I’ve really enjoyed picking up my laptop and working from the garden, or the couch for a few hours! The change in posture has really allowed me to feel more comfortable in my work.
Ensuring you have the correct set up
If you are working from home regularly as part of our working week, you need to ensure that the set up you have is appropriate, and that we are not doing long term damage to our necks and spines. A workstation self-assessment is critical to see how your home environment measures up.
Having a good quality office chair is a must, and for me, I feel lost without dual screens. There are many companies online such as IT Resale and Office Resale which are selling high quality refurbished IT equipment and office furniture at hugely reduced prices compared to buying new, which can make fitting out your new home office much more affordable. It also forms part of a circular economy, breathing new life into used products.
One thing that isn’t going away is how we view our impact on the environment. The positive affect our absence has had on our surroundings has highlighted the importance of ongoing improvements in sustainability policies, reducing our carbon footprint, minimising waste and implementing a circular economy, and I sincerely hope that this gives a huge boost to the fight against climate change.
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About the author:
Ashley Lawrence is Head of Interiors for Crown Workspace, offering a tailored approach to office design, interior fit outs, construction and dilapidation projects while always looking to be at the forefront of the circular economy.
Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.