Back to the Office

Back to the Office: A 10-Step Guide

Life gave us lemons in the shape of a pandemic, and we had to make lemonade, in other words, build a new normality. There is a new addition to the list of mandatory characteristics featured in the definition of a successful modern office, namely safe, which has acquired a whole new meaning.

According to a recent survey of 2,300 U. S. workers conducted by the Gensler Research Institute, only 12 % of the respondents want to work from home full-time. The rest of the respondents prefer to spend the whole or the majority of their workweek at the office, while maintaining the ability to work from home. Survey results also indicate that the quality of the work environment the respondents left directly correlates to their interest in returning: the more intelligently designed, comfortable and aesthetically appealing the office space, the greater the willingness to go back to it.

The office has a great appeal to many people. Transitioning back to it will entail the adoption of social distancing and safety measures.
When asked about the most important reasons to choose the office over telework, respondents focused on socializing, face-to-face time, the feeling of belonging to a professional community, access to technology and the ability to better focus on their work as key reasons to come in.

Let us say this again: intelligently designed office space remains the most appealing.
The current situation necessitates both temporary and long-term changes in the efficient office concept as we know it. The ten most important ones are as follows:
1. Return to the office shall be coupled with work from home, as this is the only way to cut down the number of workers present at the office at the same time and maintain safe physical distancing. Work from home is a craft in its own right and you have probably mastered some of its details already, while others you can master with the help of our article.


2. Doors, elevator control panels, office cafeterias and lunchrooms will be gradually replaced with zero-touch models and equipment, while sugar dispensers and olive oil decanters as we know them will have to go.
3. When choosing office furniture, it is important to pay attention to materials and pick out those that are easy to clean and disinfect. Upholstery fabrics are not quite suitable, leather, plexiglass, wood, brass and copper being the more preferable choices.

4. Office seating plans shall be reconsidered so that seats are at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

5. Room dividers, screens, panel and desking systems are an efficient solution for isolating individual workstations and securing mental and physical comfort.

6. Clean desk policy: personal space shall be perfectly organized to secure efficient disinfection of each working spot. The situation where the keyboard, mouse, phone, pencils, note pads are in casual disarray on the desk is no longer acceptable. The keyboard tray, monitor arm, desktop storage boxes come in handy in a desk clean-up, which facilitates efficient disinfection.

7. Social spaces, namely meeting and conference rooms, relaxation areas, dining areas, shall be reconfigured so as to reduce the number of seats in order to ensure physical distancing.
8. Team members from high-risk groups should better be relocated to a different floor, or, ideally, to a separate isolated area.
9. Passage areas shall be adapted so as to secure a safe passing distance.
10. Where teamwork is required, a team should comprise not more than 2-3 workers.

This is the beginning of a lengthy process of office space reconfiguration. As of now, it is impossible to make accurate predictions about its development and outcomes. One thing is for sure, we are entering a new normality and design has solutions to offer.

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