The post-pandemic office
This year brings hope not only to people but also to businesses.
As vaccines against the COVID-19 virus are gradually becoming available to many, workplaces are also starting to re-open and assume regular operations. Even with the threat of viral spread still in the air, many companies have found ways to work around this inconvenience and continue providing services.
The work office as we know it, however, may never be the same again. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many of our attitudes toward traditional work spaces. Armed with newfound sensitivity against the spread of disease and unnecessary contact, many of us insist that our offices undergo necessary changes to ensure health and safety.
Whether you’re an employer eyeing to resume office operations, or an employee worried about going back to your old desk space, you should be aware of the different ways you can adapt to the new normal work space. Here are some ideas to consider in reporting back to work in the post-pandemic office.
An altered open office setup
While at first the idea of the open office seems to be the ultimate breeding ground for COVID-19, this setup can actually help you keep a healthier work environment. The open office offers flexibility and limits commonly touched surfaces. If your office has access to windows, you can easily switch from HVAC systems to natural ventilation while a lot of people are at work. More importantly, you can maintain social distancing by reducing the office occupancy rate, providing enclosed private rooms and modifying furniture placements to discourage close interactions.
If your company successfully carried out operations last year through remote working, you might still be inclined toward keeping this setup. For the times employees would need to report to the office, however, consider re-arranging your work space to create a “touchdown” area.
According to Clayton Whitman of the CallisonRTKL design firm, these spaces can be likened to phone booths but larger in size. They are meant to be used by workers who would only need to report to the office occasionally but would require desks to work. These spaces can easily be sanitized after each use, ready to accommodate the next worker who will come in for work. This would not only save on maintenance costs, but would also reduce the need for a larger floor area for employees who work mostly from home anyway.
The “Hoteling” concept
Another option would be to create a space that is designed after furniture showrooms. Endorsed by the CallisonRTKL firm, this concept proposes that each employee be provided with their personal lockers but given various furniture setups to choose from when working. Phone booths, touchdown rooms, open seating areas, and conference pods can be spread throughout the office for people to choose a working environment they are comfortable to work in. Like the touchdown space, this allows easy maintenance and quick setup for those coming in and out of the office.
Old and new materials
The pandemic has brought about the rise of anti-microbial surfaces, contactless technology and UV light cleaning systems. While you can retrofit your office to feature these enhancements, bear in mind that simpler solutions also work well. Silver, copper and copper alloys are now well-known for their anti-microbial properties, but wood has also been scientifically proven to be naturally antibacterial. Stone countertops and laminate finishes allow easy cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces in the office too.
Simple solutions, modern technology
While you can introduce contactless technology to the office by installing motion sensor switches, you can also replace frequently used appliances such as coffee machines and fingerprint scanners. Automatic coffee machines and tap-based RFID card systems effectively reduce the need for contact.
UV Light systems have been proven to work well in eliminating viruses and bacteria, but they do so to the detriment of our health. Remember that these systems are meant to be used with the office empty. Consider investing in air filtration systems as well that has a high rate of air change and frequently uses outdoor air. A more attractive and often cheaper alternative is to place plants indoors.
Biophilia, or our tendency to gravitate toward natural environments, has been shown to reduce stress, improve productivity and encourage creativity in the work place. If your office has an open plan setup, you can introduce plants, natural ventilation, and water stations in the office. These elements would not only help reduce the spread of viruses and microbes, they can also encourage people to take a breather and relax to avoid work-related stress.
Relocation to a new site
If your current setup just won’t do in the new normal era, relocating to a new office environment may be a wise solution. Given the many new buildings in Metro Manila, choosing to pack up and re-assemble in a new location can prove to be the more cost-effective and health-efficient solution. Cities outside the usual central business districts (CBDs) may just be what you need to start over post-pandemic.
Areas like Pasig, Cavite, and other new urban hubs would not only provide more nature-filled environments for your employees. These places also have less traffic and population densities which can help ease the transition for your employees who have become used to remote working.
In particular, if you have your eyes set on Pasig City, consider checking out Capitol Commons. A brainchild of the real estate giant Ortigas Land, the development offers Offices at Estancia. Set atop the Estancia Mall, this office is connected to the Unimart Supermarket and Paragon Cinema Complex. It is positioned right in front of Capitol Commons Park, which gives its tenants scenic views while at work. The place has easy accessibility with its drop-off points located along Shaw Boulevard and Meralco Avenue. A Class A work space set in a green environment, the Offices at Estancia is a fine example of an office setup well-adapted to the needs of the new normal era.
While the COVID-19 virus remains in our midst, remember that there are ways we can go about pursuing fulfilling careers in the new normal. We just have to make some changes in our environments to ensure our health and safety especially in our office spaces.
Sources: www.workdesign.com, www.mckinsey.com, https://vicuspartners.com, www.npr.org, www.ortigas.com.ph, Pixabay, Eunice Lui, Andrea Denise via pexels.com
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