During and Post Pandemic changes for workplaces

What do architects and designers do to develop new technologies and solve problems while working in office during and post pandemic.

Pandemic has changed the industry, our lives and we have been working and studying online for the past few months. Designers have thought ways to bring people back to the office safely and here are some of the interesting new spatial arrangements found for a safe return.

Panellist Ramon Beijen, creative director of commercial real estate firm CBRE, believes that even though work will become more local, people still need to get out of their houses sometimes and therefore, workspaces will be increasingly dispersed across spatial typologies.

Employees will have more choice over where they work. City locations may serve as a more transient cultural base for employees in a broader real estate footprint that may include an employees’ home working environment and satellite locations near workforce population clusters’. 

WeWork, for example, is capitalising on the demand for flexible office space resulting from the pandemic. The co-working brand’s recently released statement about the ways in which they can help businesses integrate flexibility into their workplace strategy emphasises the benefits of decentralisation , too. ‘This means the brands will have multiple satellite offices in a city for shortening commutes for different teams.

The COVID-19 crisis has made ‘hybrid’ a prefix to most every action: learning, working, living and enjoying have been spatially redistributed, placing many a pressure point on the home sphere. One division that was already in the process of being dissolved pre-pandemic is that between indoors and out. Now, not just in homes but offices and schools are sought to be stretched from indoors to outdoors. There is a significant. need for greater interior engagement with the exterior and resulting tendency toward biophilic design is impacting every single spatial typology. I do believe that space has a psychological-emotional spectrum that can have a great impact – that space makes you feel in certain ways. But there's also the physical, organisational and programmable aspect of space that can simply set up possibilities for different types of events to happen.

The paradigm shift is in thinking of the users as inhabitants rather than "employees", and creating a territory that evolves to meet their needs in life rather than just work.

Office buildings are supportive of certain forms of identity, both on an individual level and with regard to the wider company. If there’s an iconic image that you can generate and then attach an identity to, that allows you to release control on other levels.

Some permanent fixes:

1- The sneeze guard

Brent Capron, interior design director at global design practice Perkins and Will in New York, uses the term to describe an additional panel fitted between socially distanced desks. “Previously, workstations were about privacy and acoustics. Now they represent a physical separation between colleagues.

2-Distributed offices and rotating days

3-Crowded central hub for a distributed set of smaller offices

Having small groups of people working collaboratively would address the need for connections and improved mental health, but without risking massive exposure, where one person gets the virus and everyone else has to self-isolate

4-Offices that resemble hospitals In the longer term, experts predict that society’s heightened awareness of contagious diseases could usher in a new type of office – one that has elements in common with a hospital.

Post-pandemic offices could include hygiene stations, signage indicating direct routes, separated seats and more automation, air filtration systems ( ultra violet lights)

“I love the idea of handwashing becoming a new ritual when you enter an office or a public space,” says Capron. 

We expect office layouts to change, with circuitous routes eliminated. “Doctors’ work is so urgent and their time is so precious that they will find the fastest way to get from point A to point B. We, too, will be more focused on getting from A to B in a very direct manner, and conscious of what we're touching along the way.” 

Privacy versus self-regulation :

'Contactless office': For example, employees could eliminate the need to press communal buttons by using their smartphone to send a command to the elevator or staff coffee machine. Conference rooms could be fitted out with voice-activated technologies to control lighting, audio and visual equipment. Passing through doors or flushing the toilet would require a simple wave, while self-service in office kitchens could become a relic of the past, to be replaced with automation or a dedicated server.

Temperature Sensors:

One possibility is embedding sensors underneath desks to monitor body temperatures, with a facilities manager alerted when someone has a fever.

As we can see, there is many other ways to create a sterile environment for the office workers. Even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, it seems likely that the experience of living through a pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way we work and how our workplaces function. If nothing else, the idea of coming to work while sick could become socially unacceptable. On the other end of the spectrum is a focus on health and hygiene so pronounced that it gives new meaning to the idea of working in a sterile environment.

References: Frame Magazine, Dezeen, BBC Worklife

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