It is evident to interior office designers that future workplaces have to include features that prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Commercial building owners and corporate CEOs are fully aware of the changes that need to take place. With ubiquitous refurbs and retrofits on the horizon, the future look of the office will start to take shape immediately.
It is well-established that traditional office designs cause more problems than solutions. Open-plan offices are noisy, distracting and harmful to the health and wellbeing of employees.
Countless studies have shown the interior design of most offices has a negative impact on creative thinking, productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention and work-related illnesses.
A move away from the traditional office layout has been slowly turning the tide for some time now. The positive response from interior office designers had been agile offices.
Whilst the philosophies behind flexible working are needed for employees and employers, the pandemic has forced a shift in the way companies to create a productive working culture and an environment people want to work in.
Although still in its infancy, studies showed flexible working relieves stress, improved wellness and increased productivity. The next wave of interior office designs should not depart entirely from the benefits of agile working.
In addition to customisable workspaces, flexible working features, quiet spaces and collaboration, the future workplace will have to focus on health and wellbeing, smart planning strategies and behavioural responsibility.
Health and Wellbeing Central to Interior Office Design
The immediate Covid-safe solutions for retrofit offices is to install protective desk shields, foot-powered hand sanitising stations and safe distance floor stickers.
We expect to see a push towards workspaces that value the health and wellbeing of staff. Not only in relation to Covid-19 but office pollutants that have hampered health and wellbeing in the past.
Air-quality is notoriously poor in UK offices and researchers have found multiple benefits natural light gives to office workers.
Interior office designers also recognise the importance of being close to nature. Biophilic office designs improve the health and wellbeing of employees in a number of ways but also enhance space and enable better interaction.
Larger offices that have space to create an outdoor environment indoors should take advantage of innovative designs to bring your employees closer to nature and improve air quality in the process.
It’s clear that designers will have to strike a balance between working on one level whilst adhering to social distancing regulations. Creating more space by opening up the office to outdoor areas such as gardens and rooftops adopt the safety policies recommended by government advisors.
We fully expect to see offices take on a hybrid design which merges indoor and outdoor areas. Although the rain and the cold weather in the UK poses a problem, retractable walls and ceiling will enable companies to install open-air seating when the weather permits.
The interior office design of Google’s Mountain View campus in California could be used as a marker. Traditional floors were moved and replaced with plates with ramps sloping down from the centre of the office. As a result, a large workforce has its own space, an outside view of nature and a healthy dose of daylight.
There will also be more incentive to source furniture made from sustainable materials. Synthetic products such as paint and plastics will be replaced by chemical-free furniture, modular designs and self-cleaning fabrics.
Interior Design For Individual Users
Whilst companies want to encourage collaboration, interior office designs need to accommodate both introverts and extroverts. Offices of the future will be designed with the user in mind.
The one-size-fits-all approach to office design has worn thin for an increasing number of workers. A YouGov survey revealed that 36% of employees said they would throw less sick days if the office environment was more inspiring.
Office pods in various shapes and sizes will become a custom feature in post-pandemic office designs. Acoustic pods were already offered as a sound barrier to muffle noise levels.
Whilst it is doubtful companies will revert back to the isolated environments imposed by private cubicles, individual glass-sided pods are likely to become a post-pandemic trend to prevent employees from feeling totally isolated.
Pods, like telephone booths, will be used sparingly for when people need to work in complete silence so they can concentrate on their work. The practical choice is to install three-way cardboard desk shields with clear film windows that allow natural light to shine through.
Lightweight sneeze screens are portable, easy to install and low maintenance. Moreover, researchers have confirmed that coronavirus only lasts up to 24-hours on cardboard compared to 72-hours on perspex, glass, steel and wood.
With coronavirus spreading through contact with surfaces hands-free technologies will become more prevalent in the workplace. Employees will have to scan passes to enter the building, pass through doorways and order drinks.
Facial recognition software and office management tools on mobile phones were already starting to appear in smart offices. Deloitte’s intelligent building The Edge in Amsterdam connects its employees to a central AI computer that knows how and when individuals like their coffee, organises work schedules, finds a free parking space and sets your workspace to a customisable temperature.
Companies with a high number of employees working in the office on a daily basis should think about installing non-contact thermometers to monitor people’s temperature and automated taps and dryers in the toilets that people do not have to touch. Handsfree sanitiser towers enable employees to cleanse their hands using their foot.
Social Interaction – At A Distance
It’s human nature to want social interaction. Whilst Covid-19 does not mean we are all in total isolation, community spaces in the workplace will require strict policies that must be enforced.
Office designs that encourage Covid-safe behaviour will play a part in ensuring employees socially distance whilst also enabling companies to integrate a sense of togetherness.
Clear-screen partitions between desks and dining tables do not stray from government recommendations. The aesthetic quality also adds to the look and feel of a stylish, and futuristic interior office design.
Portable furniture will also enable workers to have the freedom of flexibility without putting co-workers at risk by sharing seats. A policy of wiping desks clean will become common practice and lockers will allow people to keep their personal belongings in a safe place.
Covid-secure office solutions are already underway. Whilst temporary measures are in place, companies – and interior office consultants – have to find long-term solutions.
By working together, companies and designers will find long-tern solutions quicker. To get the ball rolling get in touch with our experts and lead the way for other businesses to follow.