03 Sep Navigating Social Distancing In The Office Space
Before discussing the ‘office space’ in the post COVID world, it’s important to define exactly what that term has come to mean. According to Mckinsey, estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis, compared with about 25 percent a couple of years ago. 80 percent of people questioned, reported that they enjoy working from home, whilst forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before.
This newfound fluidity in many people’s working conditions means that our concept of the office may never be the same and that, in fact, the office space of our team members now extends to their homes. Whilst they are chiefly responsible for this space, we now need to help ensure that this space is also fully optimized.
With the ‘new normal’ rapidly becoming an omnipresent buzzword, we should see this unprecedented period as an opportunity for a clean slate, a time to create something better than before, by completely redesigning spaces, both physical and digital, to fit the needs of the new world. Here are a few trends that we see businesses implementing globally and some tips that you can use to navigate social distancing in your own ‘office space’:
Maximise Your Space
Day-to-day fundamental ideas that you should already be implementing in your business include increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, back-to-back or side-to-side working, using screens or barriers to separate people and staggering or separating different teams. However, once you’ve exhausted these techniques, your office may not be fit for its new purpose of sustainable social distancing practices. Particularly as we don’t yet know how long this newly enforced way of life will continue for – possibly indefinitely given the resulting widespread health paranoia. If this is the case, you may need to think about a complete office refit.
From Apple to Facebook, many of the global tech giants are in favour of open layouts for employees and this may be one solution if you have the resources. However, Strategy Consultant, Albert De Plazaola, who has worked with Facebook and Yahoo!, believes it’s unlikely that major refits will be undertaken anytime soon: “There’s a flurry of activity, but it’s purely focused on tactical solutions. No one is willing to invest a significant sum on solutions that could be rendered ineffective [by our increased understanding of Covid-19, or a vaccine] in six-months’ time. What you will see is small, targeted hits – almost surgical interventions – that will provide employees with a sense of safety.”
Ensuring Social Distancing Isn’t Anti-social
Interior Design Director Brent Capron recognizes a distinct change in the office atmosphere: “workstations were about privacy and acoustics – now they represent a physical separation between colleagues”. Everyone wearing masks, separated by partitions and avoiding physical contact, no more hugs or handshakes. This lack of personability and connection can have an adverse effect on people’s mental wellbeing, as Woods Bagot Principal architect, Amanda Stanaway explains: “Yes, most people work to earn money, but we also work because we enjoy coming together to create ideas and solve problems. I think that’s what we’ve been missing these past few weeks. That sense of connection is fundamental to the human race.” This highlights why mental space and mental health should be considered equally as important as physical space and physical health.
But how do we reconfigure spaces so that physical separation doesn’t define our interactions and therefore ensure that social distancing isn’t anti-social? Stanaway may have a solution. She says that her clients have registered an interest in the concept of the distributed office. Swapping a busy central hub for a scattered set of smaller offices closer to where staff live would mean less exposure to infectious disease on public transport and as she explains “Having small groups of people working collaboratively would address the need for connections and improved mental health”. This is certainly something worth considering although of course this is quite an expensive solution. One other less costly alternative is to subsidize the cost of home offices, given that they are now perceived as legitimate extensions of our shared office spaces.
Utilizing the Right Technology
These surgical interventions that De Plazaola refers to can come in the form of technology. Instead of spending vast amounts of money on a brick and mortar space that at best is not future proof and at worst is nearing redundancy, you may find your money better invested in cutting edge technology that spans the void between the digital and the physical, allowing you to communicate with your team wherever they are. It means no risk of infection, but also less risk of losing your team chemistry and company culture.
At Laduma, we’re developing something unique that can give you the jump on your competition in these uncertain times. We can transform your current physical spaces into digital hybrid workspaces, allowing you to free yourself from your computer screen and work in a more natural way. Work on your walls like a whiteboard, leaving only a digital trace, while your remote team writes and draws on those same walls using stylus-enabled mobile devices. If you want to hear more about our room mirroring, user profiles and round-the-clock support, among other features, contact us using the form below.
The most natural way of working for the post-COVID world is almost here!
Laduma is coming to a room near you in February 2021.