Reimagining Offices: Designing the new work-life environment after COVID-19
Updated: Jan 18, 2022
In a previous workplace of mine before COVID, the idea of working from home was a fantasy: it was touted by higher-ups as a potential change down the road. Unsurprisingly, it was unprioritized, implementation was pushed back due to lack of policies or resources, criticized as a productivity-killer, and exposed the lack of trust between managers and their subordinates.
This all changed in 2020 when society was forced to take a hard look at how we work and where we work when the global pandemic started. The hesitation that decision makers had previously soon turned into an adoption race of these new safeguards. There is no doubt businesses had to face more challenges on top of their daily responsibilities to accommodate the essential changes that the world was going through.
As we start to come out of lockdowns and vaccination intake is getting better, we have to consider what the new normal will look like in our offices. Here at Movado Interiors, we seek to help you and your employees transition 100% fully back into work or design a new hybrid model of in-person work and work from home.
Physical Distancing and New Office Layouts
Physical distancing may eventually be a thing of the past. While governments and health authorities around the world have yet to comment on what kind of rules and recommendations will be in place in public spaces and workplaces once we complete our journey to herd immunity, here are some quick tips to help navigate the new norm:
Resizing Workstations - An example of a design decision is whether to increase the sizing of each workstation to give the employee more space in their own bubble or to create free, empty space between them by shrinking desks.
Glass Dividers, Sneeze Guards, and Panel Systems - Transparent acrylic or tempered glass screens will allow people to see and interact with each other without compromising on safety. These dividers are often relatively inexpensive and are easy to install and dismantle. Panel systems however offer benefits to spaces such as better privacy, acoustics, power outlets, and a dedicated physical divider.
Shared items - Shared desktops, landline phones, screens, and the like should be minimized if possible but the workstations should have enough functionality in the furniture so that anyone can use it (cable management, charging stations, etc.)
Hoteling and Dropdown Stations - These types of workstations do not have a specific owner and have become an “almost-perfect” solution for offices that do not have enough office space for all of their employees and/or implemented a work from home and office hybrid. We recommend equipping these workstations with sneeze guard screens, disinfecting equipment, storage, and integrated technology.
Conference Rooms - Existing conference rooms have reduced the amount of seating to improve physical distancing. If maximizing seating is a must and physical distancing is almost impossible, overhanging sneeze guard screens are highly recommended.
Temporary Cubicles - Allows you to create a defined workspace with its own sound and health barriers but also gives you flexibility to dismantle should you need to; these temporary cubicles are usually modular in nature and can be repurposed for other uses.
Home Offices - Consider sending employees that don’t need constant team meetings to fully work from home, but help to subsidize their home office equipment and furniture to foster still “being” at work.
Open-Concept Floor Plans
Working from home is likely here to stay. It is safe to say that more and more people are adapting to the non-traditional work environment. With telecommuting and split schedules, there is a need for more collaborative and flexible workspaces that working from home cannot replace. We believe that there is potential for more hoteling and open-concept layouts in the future of workspace rather than individual cubicles. That said, some industries might still require personal workstations or private offices such as lawyers, accountants, etc. due to the confidential nature of their business. Some factors you should consider when creating open-concept floor plans.
Acoustics - Open spaces and distanced team meetings will generally require better acoustics. Products such as system panels, wall and ceiling paneling, and pod systems can further enhance your space's acoustical capabilities. Proper space planning and choosing the appropriate construction materials are also highly advised when designing/redesigning a space with consideration to acoustics.
Benching Systems - Benching workstations are usually the bread and butter of open-concept floor plans as these workstation design promote collaboration works. You may find that these are extremely effective for designers/artists requiring collaboration work or used as hoteling/drop-down workstations for staff that spend their time visiting clients, or sales representatives. Not only are these good for collaboration but these workstations are often space-efficient and cost-effective.
Traffic direction (one-way versus two-way) - With proper space planning, you can be more intentional and in control of where furniture, accessories, and boundaries are placed to encourage a specific action from your occupants.
Focus on the Furniture
From posture and ergonomics, to more hygienic materials, your choice in furniture can drastically affect your daily work life. With businesses reopening their offices, now is the perfect time to rethink your furniture and equipment choices.
Smart technology - Incorporating motion sensors, motion lights, auto doors, auto faucets, and other smart technology can help minimize contact and transmission of bacteria; at the same time, it can potentially save you money on your energy use.
Modular furniture - Focusing on lightweight, movable furniture with more functionality will allow you to be more flexible with your space should your needs change.
Material - Generally reserved for the health industry, durable, non-porous, and easy-to-clean upholstery such as PVC-free vinyl and polyurethane has taken the spotlight in the office environment. In terms of casegoods and desking materials, steel, and commercial laminates are still great options in terms of durability and ease of maintenance. For the home office or executive office with little to no clutter beneath the desk, tempered glass may also be a great option (however, glass is not recommended for a heavy-use workstation setting as it can be a safety-hazard and is also not recommended for people who are easily bothered by clutter and fingerprint smudges).
Ergonomic Furniture/Accessories - Making a habit with working on your kitchen counter and counter-stools for many hours may not be the best option for your musculoskeletal health. We recommend utilizing ergonomic chairs, most of these chairs are designed with adjustable components such as the 4D armrests, chair height, headrest, seat sliders, synchro-tilter mechanisms, lumbar supports, and many others. Sit-stand desks may also be a good option for those who plan on staying at their desk for hours on end.
COVID has proven that working from home could be just as productive and effective as working in the office. According to McKinsey, 80% of research participants reported that they enjoy working from home, 41% claim that they are more productive than before, and 28% report that they are just as productive. As furniture professionals, it is our duty to not only create workspaces that are functional and comfortable, but also to boost productivity and better the working experience for the end-users. If this new reality is here to stay, employers will need to learn how to properly transition their workplace and not compromise on their worker’s well-being.
The Movado Interiors team is here to help you reimagine your new work life environment post-COVID. We offer space planning services to redesign your space, help you find the right types of furniture and systems and help you sustainably dispose of old ones as you go through upgrading your new office. Check out our shop or feel free to contact us at email@example.com.