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Donna Hannaway, Marketing Segment Manager (Offices) at Forbo Flooring Systems, considers the transition back to the office. One thing is obvious – it won’t be business as usual. So how do we adapt our workplaces for the ‘new normal’?
Paid feature by Forbo Flooring Systems
As I write this, it is Monday morning and we are entering another week working from home during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. The speed in which the world has changed over the last few months has been staggering, and this of course has affected the office space and the way that we work. In fact, I am currently sitting at my dining room table with my two-year old little girl playing behind me. Albeit strange at first, this has now become the norm. While we continue to work from our makeshift home offices, it is difficult to predict what the new ‘normal’ will look like post-COVID-19, as many businesses will need to rethink how the modern office will be used.
Working from home has its benefits, both from a productivity and lifestyle perspective. Ticking through my to-do list without getting too distracted and cutting out commuting gives me more free time to spend with my family. However, there are some disadvantages too, particularly from a social aspect. I miss seeing my team every day, the constant conversations floating around the office (work and non-work related) and being able to quickly ask my colleagues a simple question, without having to send it across in an email. While weekly virtual team catch-ups and singing happy birthday via video conferencing facilities work as an alternative, it’s not quite the same as being in the physical presence of your colleagues in the office environment.
When things eventually go back to ‘normal’, it is inevitable that the office won’t be how we knew it before. Concerns about infection will remain for all, and businesses will have to adapt to reassure staff that the building is safe and operational. The briefing note released by the British Council of Offices (BCO) on office design and operation after COVID-19 states the importance of hygiene and the need to adhere to social distancing whilst the virus is still active within society. For example, this could mean that the number of people allowed in a meeting room should be prominently displayed in order to prevent overcrowding and the layout of table and chairs should discourage close proximity of staff.
Perhaps staff will need to split their time between work and home, and the office should be a place we choose to come to for activities that are better carried out in person such as building relationships, collaboration and team meetings. Indeed, the management of people is essential as flexible hours and working on a rota-basis to control the number of people coming into the office each day will prove pivotal. For us at Forbo, this might mean using the office for activities that require face-to-face contact, such as brainstorming sessions, new product development meetings and to see and feel flooring prototypes.
While offices remain closed, it is important that facilities are not left to deteriorate; they should be ready to be brought back into use quickly and safely when the time comes. Businesses may need to reconsider the design of the office environment – which might involve a change of flooring – and products that enable a quick refurbishment are ideal during this period, both in terms of downtime and tradespeople not having to stay on site for too long.
What’s more, products that will help reiterate the need to keep socially distant from colleagues will also need to be incorporated. This can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, different floor coverings can be used to identify zones or shapes can be used to indicate two metres of distance, such as through the use of circle tiles. Forbo’s Allura 50x50cm tiles can be cut out into a circle of Ø40cm and these can be mixed and matched with other circle tiles in the collection. Offices can also print messages on the floor through social distancing entrance mats to support everyone’s efforts to keep safe.
The concerns and complexities that now exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic means that it is difficult to predict when and if office life as we know it will resume again. However, it is clear that the way that we work and how we use our office spaces is going to be different for the foreseeable future and as we begin to adapt to this new working landscape, it is essential that offices remain safe, clean and operational for its employees.
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