Many of us, who have found our lives significantly impacted by the pandemic sweeping across the globe, have found ourselves waiting endlessly for that moment when things will return to normal. In the last weeks, it has become clear that many norms of the office will change. And company leaders, building owners and designers are already anticipating changes in how offices will look, once the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted, and employees begin transitioning back to work.
Social distancing will become the “new normal”
Not everyone will return to work at once. However, at the earliest stages, employees will definitely see varying degrees of social distancing in their work environments. Offices will also modify work areas to provide 6 feet distance between peers. Many employees will continue working remotely or opt for a rotating schedule that will incorporate working from home on certain days, with only a few days of the week spent in the office.
Employees will expect cleaner work environments
It is clear that when we return back to work, there will be an expectation and a necessity for cleaner work environments. Employees will be expected to wash hands frequently, and to use hand sanitizer frequently to prevent the spread of germs. Building owners will also be pressured to improve building maintenance and update their HVAC systems to improve filtration and air quality. Touch free sensors may catch on as the new norm, as surfaces, buttons and door handles will require regular cleaning.
Office furniture will be made differently
Office furniture manufacturing may see a shift, as companies opt for materials that are less likely to harbor dangerous pathogens. Smooth tabletops are easier to clean than surfaces that are porous and textured. Companies may also opt for office furniture that incorporates antimicrobial/ self-sanitizing materials like copper, brass and bronze. Materials traditionally employed in the healthcare sector, may be employed in corporate environments like technology and banking, as cleaning protocol becomes more vigorous.
New office trends will emerge
In addition to utilizing new materials, companies may begin to employ glass screens, and desks will be constructed in wider configurations to increase personal space and distance. Office trends like densely packed bench desking will certainly be reconsidered. Office space per individual, which has been on the decline in recent years, will likely see an increase in the months and years to come.
We will learn to re-connect
These last weeks have completely changed the way people connect with each other. Worldwide, people are learning to work, to communicate and connect with each other in spite of physical distance. And while collaborating apart has turned out to be easier than anticipated, people are reporting that they miss human interaction and being amongst others. As work resumes, we will definitely see a transition (and perhaps a few hiccups) as companies re-learn how to conduct businesses safely in-person. What will be the correct way to greet each other? What will be a safe in-office distance? There exists a human need to connect, and how that will be achieved in tomorrow’s offices is a question that will be answered in the coming weeks, months and years.