Office environments have been trending toward a wellness focus for some time now. From Google’s Subsidized Massage Program to Apple Park’s 100,000-square-foot fitness center, big companies have put health and wellness at the forefront. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, businesses of all sizes are prioritizing wellbeing and safety. Except now, they’re taking a much more literal approach.
The office isn’t going anywhere. But the COVID crisis is changing it for the foreseeable future, if not forever. Here are some of the most important changes to consider as you prepare your office design for a post-COVID world.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
Both workers and employers were forced to confront the challenges of #WFHlife this year. But both have also reaped the benefits. Employees have improved their work-life balance through skipping commutes, adding more time with family, and incorporating streamlined technologies designed to improve inter-office communications. Business owners have seen how remote working can boost productivity and recruitment while cutting company costs. Full-time remote work is not a permanent solution for some companies. (After all, there’s no replacement for working face to face with colleagues.) But now, it is unlikely to ever disappear completely, either. Businesses must decide how best to manage that balance.
Sanitation has Moved to the Forefront
When back in the office, it is up to businesses and organizations to make sure employees have the supplies and procedures they need to stay safe and keep up with proper hygiene in the COVID-19 era. In addition to ready access to hand sanitizer and surface cleaners, offices may need to install sinks in kitchen areas and break rooms. Experts also recommend moving from individual trash cans to communal ones to consolidate sanitation. And if your office has communal closets, file systems, or storage areas, you may also want to consider installing and assigning individual lockers or cabinets.
Unassigned Seats and Socially Distant Spaces are More Important than Ever
Speaking of sanitation, did you know that offices with assigned seats usually have desks that are “dirtier than many toilets.” That’s because housekeepers are often told not to touch objects on people’s desks. The pre-COVID trend of “hot desking,” where seats are claimed on a first-come basis, are easier to clean at the end of the day. If you switch to an open seating plan, however, don’t forget to have seats properly spaced out so that employees can social distance. And do add plexiglass shields or other barriers, too. Another great idea is disposable, recyclable place mats. Employees can grab one in the morning and recycle it at the end of the day so your nightly cleaning crew will be able to clean workstations more thoroughly.
Open Floor Plans Get a Second Chance
They may have fallen out of popularity at home, but open floor plans at offices are here to stay. Instead of everyone having their own dedicated space, many businesses are opting for open, flex spaces paired with small meeting rooms or “privacy pods.” In addition to being inherently easier to clean, open floor plans lower the number of surface areas employees will touch. Door handles, cubical openings, and chair arms are some of the most touched objects in offices, making private spaces less safe from a germ spreading perspective. Open offices with open windows also afford better ventilation, which is key in preventing the spread of viruses.
Touchless Communication is Key
Social distancing emblems, stickers, and signs have become commonplace in restaurants and retail environments. Those same features need to be brought into the office to maintain order. Floor stickers can help reduce density while waiting for the elevator or in line at the bathroom. Narrow hallways could be rerouted into one-way paths. And open circulation areas should be properly routed to promote social distancing. Both employees and guests should find it easy to check in to the business via a hands-free system and follow de-densifying protocols.
Invest in Adaptable Furniture and Appliances
Returning to the office isn’t only about adapting to the present. It’s also about preparing for the future. If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that the future can be difficult to predict. Why not outfit your office with furniture and appliances that adapt to your changing needs as they develop? Lightweight, flexible furniture is both easy to sanitize and easy to reconfigure. Height-adjustable desks allow employees to work in comfort, whatever their preference. And having smaller kitchenettes in each department prevents germs from accumulating in one large refrigerator or communal dishwasher.
Not convinced these updates are a worthwhile investment? You can always try the new trend of renting your office furniture. “Renting office furniture minimizes expense and risk, and boosts efficiency and convenience,” according to BureauOne.
Biophilia Boosts Air Quality and the Environment
Smart materials and antimicrobial features, like copper and brass, are becoming more popular around offices. So are biophilic designs that aim to bring nature indoors. But don’t stop at the odd ficus in the corner. Large plant features, such as living walls or vertical gardens, are both attractive and functional. They improve air quality and promote health and wellness among employees. Complement the plants with additional natural elements like sunlit workspaces and furniture made from natural materials. You can also promote sanitation and eco-friendly practices by installing motion-activated light switches, sink faucets, and automatic doors. Switching to biodegradable cutlery is also a great move.
Does Your Office Have All the Design Features You Need to Succeed in a Post-COVID World?
Did you read this post and have trouble picturing yourself making these updates in your office? That could be because it’s no longer the right space for your business and your team. NAI Beverly-Hanks continually strives to be the best in the business and provide you with the expertise you need to find the perfect office space.
Contact us today to speak with an NAI Beverly-Hanks commercial real estate agent about creating the perfect post-COVID office space for your Western North Carolina business.