Observing Social Distancing in the Office by Rethinking Design

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the public perceives shared spaces, especially the office. The comfort level we have working at the office will likely never be the same as we had pre-pandemic. 

As we fear another outbreak, people are now more conscious about using public spaces or in dealing with physical interaction. The experience has made a lasting impression on us.

People are concerned about their safety. With that, building owners and commercial designers are pressured to rethink their designs and floor layouts especially for office spaces. Experts are now challenged to think of ways to implement social distancing in the office and improved health protocols in commercial spaces.

If you’re planning to reopen soon, here are some ideas to consider for a healthy and safe office space during and post pandemic.


Immediate Solutions You Can Do Now

For quick solutions to observe social distancing in the office, start by implementing unassigned seating and allow employees to choose where they want to work. This helps your employees feel confident working in the office as they can choose to sit wherever they feel comfortable and at their preferred distance.

Rethink meeting rooms. Transform a portion of these rooms for additional personal work spaces. Remove tables and eliminate touch points to make huddles safer. 

If you have a small meeting room, consider doing virtual conferences instead especially for large groups. If interaction is required, make sure the meeting is only attended by necessary staff while the rest of the group is on video conferencing.

Consider installing privacy panels especially if you’re looking to maintain the open floor design. These panels help reduce the spread of viruses as well as provide ample distance to office workers and still be able to facilitate collaboration. 

Implement a stricter health protocol. Encourage your staff to help maintain a clean desk all the time. Add more lockers and individual drawers for better storage for personal items. This way, they don’t have to share storage.

Limit seats in reception areas and organize them according to social distancing protocols. If possible, maintain a schedule of appointments to monitor the amount of traffic going in and out of your office.

Got a small kitchen? Find alternative areas employees can use to take a break. Convert conference rooms to additional spaces or implement a schedule so that the staff can take turns in using break areas.


Long Term Solutions to Invest In

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are some ideas you can consider to prepare and protect your workplace from another health crisis.

Rethink your floor plan. Been thinking about expanding your office? This is the right time to do so. Rearrange desks with social distancing in mind. Create more spaces and make function rooms bigger to accommodate privacy for all employees.

Make hygiene and health stations more accessible. Add more handwashing stations and sinks throughout the floor not just in the restroom or kitchen pantry. Install temperature and health checkpoints in the reception area.

Add more outdoor spaces. Reduce crowding in the kitchen by adding more outdoor spaces where your employees can take a break. Studies show that quick breaks in outdoor spaces like terraces and roof decks can improve one’s productivity and connectivity with the workplace. 

Consider investing in a smart office. Building automation has done wonders not just to cut cost on energy consumption but also in eliminating touch points. Instead of having to touch a door handle, install motion detectors that automatically open doors for you. Install sensor-activated lighting, faucets, and flushes in restrooms to reduce contact points in these personal areas.

Make it a green office. Bring plant life indoors. Don’t just put some pots and plants on the corner, incorporate nature and mimic natural elements into your office design. Studies confirm that adding natural elements in the office can help decrease stress, enhance employee creativity, and accelerate recovery from illness. 

Better air sanitation systems. Indoor air is much more polluted than outdoor since the confined space restricts air circulation. Pollutants and viruses move around your space in an office as compared to outdoor spaces where particles move freely. Invest in good air sanitation systems. Filtration using UV light is a trend experts are looking into as a way to improve indoor air quality in offices.


These are just a few ideas on how you can improve your commercial space design to adapt to the new normal and keep your tenants feeling confident while social distancing in the office. Stay safe!

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