Here at AOF we strive to abide by the best health and safety practices at all times, so as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, we are looking into ways in which we can help keep our customers safe, as well as ourselves, and our businesses, moving forward.

Office Workstations

Office desks are likely to change to observe the six-feet rule, along with office churn.

Although homeworking will continue, office life will return too. The challenge lies in how to adapt workplaces to adhere to new health and safety guidelines, while splitting the working week, to include working from home and the office.

Global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has risen to the challenge with a new design concept. It's called the Six Feet Office. It's a way of transforming existing offices into places where the six-feet distance rule - which governments may continue to mandate - can be observed.

Arjun Kaicker led the workplace team at architects Foster and Partners for a decade, and now heads up analytics and insights at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). He predicts the current pandemic will radically reshape office furniture.

Office desks have shrunk over the years, from 1.8-metre to 1.6-metre, and now to 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 told The Guardian.

Simple Solutions

How to keep office desks clean? As well as obvious additions such as more hand sanitizer, some deceptively simple changes could help.For example, in Cushman & Wakefield’s office, employees are asked to grab a paper place-mat for their desk. At the end of the day, the paper is thrown away, which could help mitigate COVID-19 spreading on surfaces.

Closed Plan

Office design has included open-plan working for decades now, but could COVID-19 reverse this trend, leading to a closed-plan future. One aspect of this would be utilising more office screens, and particularly acrylic and perspex screens.“I’m not suggesting we all go back to working in 1950s cellular cubicles, but I do think the density in offices will change,” predicts Kaicker, who forecasts a move away from open-plan layouts.


Visual Cues

Offices of the future could have more visual cues to help you keep your distance.

Think road markings and signs, but for offices. From tennis-court-style lines in lobbies to standing spots in lifts, and from circles around desks to lanes in corridors, the floors, and walls of our offices, are all likely to be covered in visual instructions.

One possible approach is to encourage employees to walk clockwise, creating one-way traffic, to minimize transmission, as has been adopted by many hospitals during the current outbreak.

Technology

The Bee’ah HQ in the UAE features many design principles that could become widespread.Companies may also need to invest in a new suite of contactless technologies to reduce disease transmission.Zaha Hadid Architects’ new headquarters for the Bee’ah waste management company in Sharjah, UAE may be a glimpse of the future. It is packed with what ZHA calls ‘contactless pathways’, whereby employees rarely need to touch the building with their hands. Office doors open automatically using motion sensors and facial recognition, while lifts - and even a coffee - can be ordered from a smartphone.Technology could also be used to remind employees of social distancing. Cushman & Wakefield has installed beacons into its office to track employees’ movements via their mobile phones, potentially sending alerts when six-feet rules are breached.

Rebuild

Employees could be monitored to make sure they observe the six-feet rule at all times.Given the gravity of the situation, some companies may need to get the builders in, either for a retrofit, or a more radical rebuild.“I think we’ll see wider corridors and doorways, more partitions between departments, and a lot more staircases,” says Kaicker.“Everything has been about breaking down barriers between teams, but I don’t think spaces will flow into each other so much any more.”

Fresh Air

With effective ventilation being key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, a big trend could be simply opening windows - if windows can be opened, that is, since many offices are now sealed, controlled units.And where filtered air is the only option, it could be boom-time for high-end office climate control systems. China’s mass adoption of this technology to address poor air quality is thought to have assisted its office workers to return to their desks more quickly.

Co-working

Could the recent boom in co-existing companies, where start-ups share buildings - and in some cases, desks - change post-virus?Darren Comber, chief executive of architects, Scott Brownrigg, thinks it might. “We’ve seen a huge boom in co-working spaces,” he told The Guardian.

“But, after this, are companies really going to want to put their entire team in one place, where they’re closely mingling with other businesses?”

Emptier

And finally: will there actually be any offices? Will the world’s army of new homeworkers want to return to their workplaces, and will employers want them back, when remote working could save them money?Even though Zoom-dropouts and screaming children have become familiar distractions, McKinseys believe many of the more problematic aspects of homeworking, from low productivity to poor communication, can be addressed with strong oversight, small team working, and the right messaging tools for the job.

There’ll be an increase in demand for ‘space-planning'. Free space planning will still apply to companies looking at all new furniture.

Here at Andrews Office Furniture, we have our own in-house installation teams, who will assemble all your new furniture at no extra cost. We have our own space planning team, and a huge selection of office furniture, including sit-stand desks, available for next day delivery. We will ensure your company is operational quickly and efficiently.