Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of opinions on designing for people, not pandemic. Read more on the issues and challenges the industry is facing due to Covid-19.
For years now we’ve spoken with leading designers and end users about putting people at the heart of workplace design – so is there a danger that this will be thrown out of the window as businesses consider how to re-address their workspaces in light of the pandemic?
Is there also a danger that company ethos and culture (think sustainability, wellbeing etc) will be discarded in an effort to make spaces safe and suitable for people to return?
Is there a solution – or a series of solutions – that can help businesses ‘have it all’ – to allow their people to work safely, together, while not forgoing their company culture and beliefs? We believe there are – and we know the very people who can provide the answers.
Next to offer their insight is Nasim Köerting, Head of Design at The Office Group.
The art of blending style with substance has always been key to great office design. Workspaces should allow the businesses that occupy them to thrive – being both aesthetically pleasing and functionally seamless; designed to encourage positivity, wellness and productivity.
Four months ago, our whole concept of workspace design changed. The UK went into lockdown and the lines that separated work and home life became indefinitely blurred. As we adjusted to the new normal of working from home, physical office spaces became remote, desks morphed into kitchen tables and breakfast bars often became shared with partners, children or flatmates. Ergonomic chairs were replaced by sofas and dining chairs, and natural light became confined to small windows and a solitary hour of fresh air when we took our daily exercise.
But as lockdown rules are starting to ease, attention is rapidly shifting towards our return to work, and with this comes a new era of workspace design. Our most recent member research shows this seismic lifestyle shift has brought with it both challenges and benefits, both of which must be addressed alongside the new government guidelines, in order to successfully reimagine office design in a post-COVID society.
With 41% of our members most concerned about social distancing and overcrowding in the workplace, and 23% most worried about cleanliness, it’s of paramount importance that we place people’s wellbeing at the heart of our design philosophy, in both current and future buildings. Office providers must commit to upgrading air filtration systems, and implement social distancing measures – at TOG, we’ve integrated floor markers and revisited furniture layouts in all of our 40 UK buildings, and will be offering dedicated desks and larger meeting rooms. After the pandemic, we can expect to see one-way systems, sanitation stations and partitioned desks become the new norm in the workplace.
Though people will still want to work in an aesthetically pleasing space when they return to work, practical office design is evidently more important than ever before, as it becomes inextricably linked with people’s health in a post-COVID society.