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Workspace innovations in the new normal

/ 04:18 AM September 26, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed everyone’s routines, including how and where people now work.

Most companies had employed work-from-home arrangements, meeting and communicating with colleagues, bosses, clients and other stakeholders through various online platforms. Work was now based on output rather than the time spent in an office. But as the government eased restrictions, workers are gradually returning to their offices, prompting the need for office building owners and property developers to carefully plan and adopt innovations to help minimize virus transmission at work.

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Professionals from the architecture and design firm HLW, in their article in the Harvard Business Review, believe that the office is not going to disappear because people will still need places where they can come together, connect, build relationships and develop their careers.

However, the future of office spaces will require a fresh, new approach. Embracing technology, upgrading floor layouts, maximizing and efficiently using co-working spaces are some of the changes work and workplaces could adapt as the world looks to life after the pandemic.

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Contactless technology at Bee’ah Headquarters

Contactless technology may see a rise in the future. As the world ushers in a new normal, companies can choose to invest in a new suite of contactless technologies to help reduce disease transmission.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), the new headquarters for the Bee’ah waste management company in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, is packed with “contactless pathways,” wherein employees rarely need to touch the building with their hands. Office doors would open automatically using motion sensors and facial recognition, while pressing elevator buttons from both inside and outside can be done via a smartphone.

Modified floor layouts of WeWork offices

As the pandemic continues, global shared workspace provider WeWork has modified floor layouts of its offices with staggered seating and buffer zones, as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection. It has installed more digital signage devices to notify members of the maximum number of people allowed in meeting rooms and to show the walking direction of one-way paths in hallways, the company had said.

In its official website, WeWork said it has laid out social distancing measures by de-densifying lounges, putting up single occupancy nooks and reconfiguring meeting rooms. The company also partnered with a leading global engineering consulting firm to improve indoor air quality and enhance the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

WeWork said that in Korea, companies mindful of the COVID-19 epidemic are reaching out to WeWork for an alternative workspace. A spokesperson from the company was quoted as saying in February that “companies of all sizes and industries in the region—members and nonmembers—have been reaching out to us for multiple workplace options, as part of their proactive precautionary measure against COVID-19. We see demand from companies looking for alternative locations to house employees.”

Cushman & Wakefield’s 6 Feet Office is a conceptual idea meant to help its clients prepare for their employees’ return to the office.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Six-feet Office concept

Based on the six-feet social distancing rule, the prototype office of International real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield proposes changes in the way workplaces are used, rather than the fundamentals of their layout.

At Cushman & Wakefield’s Tokyo office, the six-feet office concept was introduced in May and features alternate desks in zigzag formation. It also called for the installation of guidance signs, the implementation of one-way traffic along halls, and the designation of doors for entrance and exit. Workers were provided disposable paper pads as placemats for their desks to help mitigate the spread of the virus on surfaces.

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IBM’s space planning and social distancing

Multinational technology company IBM has crafted standards for returning to the office to enable appropriate social distancing, with specific requirements varying based on country or local regulations.

The company, in its Return to Workplace Playbook, said that desk layouts should be spread out and a redesigned traffic flow will need to eliminate congestion at site entrances and natural queuing points. Elevators could be programmed to stop on each floor to avoid touching buttons while in cafeterias, there will be barriers between servers or cashiers and customers. Touchless transactions will be encouraged, while floor markers will be placed to ensure social distancing.

Sources: Inquirer Archives, Cushmanwakefield.com, Newsroom.ibm.com, Wework.com, World Economic Forum, Harvard Business Review

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TAGS: Bee’ah, Cushman & Wakefield, IBM, WeWork
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