As we enter the year 2024, there will be significant changes in office design. The highly anticipated “Great Return to Work” is altering our understanding and creation of workspaces. This article explores the shifting landscape and important trends that will shape office interiors in the upcoming year.
Why Focus on Covid-Safe Office Interior Design?
We’re seeing a lot of companies temporarily losing chunks of their workforce and slowing production severely because they don’t plan for safety. The list is long, and the consequences can be considerable.
However, despite the risks, people are coming back into the office and companies are promoting their employees to do so, simply because they know that the office is the best place for people to come together, collaborate, create solutions and execute their ideas.
Even in the so-called “post-covid world,” covid safety remains a critical issue for any office interior design. It can be a challenge to ensure that you have a covid-safe office design because there are multiple factors that contribute to this.
Below are some of the key considerations to take note of when designing a modern office space:
Promoting Appropriate Social Distancing – Office Interior Designer
If you have an open-plan workspace, you must create a minimum of 1.5 metres of space between each seat that your employees will use to reduce risk of infection. The same goes for meeting rooms & pods — but a trickier issue to figure out is how to set up lounge areas, recreation areas and other breakout spaces for optimal social distancing. This is a complex issue that often requires a complex solution, and you may need the assistance of an office interior designer (like Contour) to assist you in creating an office design plan.
In the case that you do not have an open-plan office (or do not have the physical space to ensure that social distancing is employed in your open-plan workspace) an easy fix is to create see-through barriers between desks, though the effectiveness of this is still being debated. This brings us to our next point:
Avoid Sharing Desks
If possible, try to avoid using shared desks in your office interior design plan and instead shift to individually-owned spaces. In the case that different employees use the same desk on different days, make sure you have an in-depth cleaning program in place.
Employ the Use of Open-Plan Meeting Spaces, and Add Buffers Where You Can
So, you’ve set up individualised workspaces, ensured that you have an effective & comprehensive cleaning program, but you still have a often-forgotten consideration to take care of: where will you hold meetings? Traditional, closed-off meeting rooms are no longer viable in the modern world, but there is a relatively simple fix.
By simply using screens, whiteboards, furniture and whatever else you can think of, you can create buffers between potential sitting and standing space, and use a more open and spacious area for meetings. Using this office interior design methodology, more people can meet together without the spacing limitations of a traditional meeting room — potentially fitting more people into important meetings than you could in the pre-covid world.
Also consider using this same methodology in high-traffic pathways, breakout spaces and other communal areas: If an area creates a risk of infection, just add screening, storage units, partitions or even plants to enforce social distancing.
Reconsider Your Furniture and Desk Configuration
If you find that even after employing the above measures, your employees are still working across from each other, behind each other, and otherwise adjacent to each other, you have still created a slight risk of infection. A simple but effective fix is to re-orient the desks to reduce problem areas, which can be as simple as turning workstations to 90-degree angles.
Reduce as Many Instances of High-Contact Surfaces as Possible
Last (but absolutely not least), take every precaution to stop your workforce from constantly touching the same surfaces. To reduce high-contact surfaces, fix-open doors to stop people from touching doorknobs and door panels, consider the use of foot-pedal-operated rubbish bin lids, ask employees to use individual handle hooks or other tools to open kitchen cupboards, and definitely look into the use of motion-sensor technology in your office interior design.
Remember: You Can Enforce All of This Without Harming the Mental Wellbeing of Your Workforce!
The physical environment of the workplace also has a significant impact on the mental health of employees, which should be considered when designing an office space — adding natural light, plants, and water features to the design of your workspace can give it a more pleasant feel and improve employee morale. If you are unsure of how to do this, contact an office interior designer like Contour to help you cover every angle.
The sound quality of an office might not always be the first thing you consider, but it is crucial in shaping an optimal and efficient workspace. The acoustics of your workplace can greatly influence how you and your coworkers function, interact, and, most importantly, affect your general wellness.
Undoubtedly, there have been social issues accompanying the shift to remote work. This article discusses the potential for both success and drawbacks in remote working, particularly concerning the potential impact on work-life balance when the boundaries between work and personal life become unclear.