As companies reopen, a Gallup survey found that about 60% of Americans would prefer to continue working remotely as much as possible and some companies plan to do the same. In addition to rethinking the open office plan, businesses can explore flexibility such as collaborating virtually instead of physically and ways to foster relationships. Pri Shah, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management notes, this experience “might empower people to actually create environments that could be better suited for their lifestyle and personality.”
Indoor spaces with other people and places with poor air circulation should be avoided as they are the main sources of infection, according to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Biology Professor Erin Bromage. In workplaces, open windows to refresh air if possible and try to maintain social distance.
Working from home is not feasible for everyone. In some European nations, many people have never worked remotely and access to ultrafast fiber broadband is not widespread. For those who work in manufacturing, construction, or service industries working from home is not an option.
Betsy Vohs from Studio BV shares challenges of redesigning offices for social distancing in this article. The photo shows screens being placed in-between desks to increase safety. The question is how do you increase space when over the past decade, the average space per employee has decreased nearly 10%, to less than 193 square feet, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
The CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting are extensive, covering everything from doorknobs and light switches to screens. How this can be done and maintained remains a question to be seen. Materials that are easier to clean and clutterless environments will ease the stress on facilities management.
Real estate firms will work with Mayo Clinic lab to study office designs that prevent the spread of Covid-19.The Well Living Lab at the Mayo Clinic is dedicated to researching the indoor environment’s impact on human health. The research will be through field studies at the corporate offices of Cushman & Wakefield, Hines and Delos.
Detailed plans of the 11th floor of an office building in Seoul which was the site of the outbreak enabled investigators to identify the seats of those infected and to recognize that they were mostly on one side of the building in close proximity. Open office plans are now a big question.
Air ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and noise are now more important than ever in workplaces environments. According to John Macomber, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, security will also take additional dimensions, monitoring not just through metal detectors but also infrared scanners at building entrances which will take visitors’ temperatures. See also here.
Cushman & Wakefield started exploring what the 6’ office would look like for a new normal, through potential spatial arrangements, rules of conduct, and cleanliness standards. Submitted by Dr. Abimbola Asojo.
This content, which originally appeared on Gensler’s Dialogue Blog, gives tips on how to prepare for a return to the workplace, such as placing desks in ways that maintain the 6’ distancing or using desks as buffers and ramping up cleaning protocols, which can be helped by eliminating clutter.