How to change your office design & layouts post Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Is Covid-19, Coronavirus, making you rethink your office layout, is it practical or even possible for you to adjust your office design?

Of course, it is too early to know what the new ‘normal’ will be but even in the short term we know we will have to adjust our way of working.

Here, Lisa Lewis MD of office interiors experts Source One Consulting, talks through some issues and potential short and mid-term solutions for smaller businesses as we all try and adjust.

Important note: Please ensure you follow Government advice on office working during this Panedmic.

Home working here to stay

Clearly homeworking will be a feature of our lives for some time. This has a number of implications for your team members who have offices at home…

  • Do they have an appropriate working space?
  • Do they have a workstation set up that will ensure healthy work practises… supportive chair, desk, screen at correct height, storage (including confidential storage)?
  • Is your IT able to offer homeworkers the support to do their role?

Although homeworking has been thrust upon many of us, and our teams have gamely risen to the challenge, there is no doubt that for many businesses moving forward we need to get better at it.

For smaller businesses, taking on this can be a challenge, and so here are some of our tips…

  • Assess the homeworking space. Our design and space planning service can help you work with your team to create a better working environment.
  • Office seating. Make sure your team has a supportive office chair for spending longer periods in… a dining room chair is not a good solution! We can supply quality office chairs, direct to your teams at home.
  • Office desks. Similarly, are they working at a desk or a dining room table? This is not great for posture or effective working. Whatever the space available, we can source and supply an appropriate desk to their home.
  • Monitor arms. Getting the screen off the desk and at a good working height will make a big difference. We can supply monitor arms that attach to a desk so that screens can be set at the appropriate working height.
  • IT support. Providing and supporting IT for team members at home is a challenge even for large organisations. We have partnered with Vanix to help small businesses get up and running quickly and efficiently with working from home services.

Flexible working… being agile

Although homeworking will increase, we are also likely to see an increase in flexible working in the future. A hybrid of office and homeworking, where people work both from home and have days in the office.

For the homeworking elements then the advice and suggestions above all apply but what are the implications for offices?

A flexible working team are going to interact with the office space differently.

For example, as there are likely to be fewer people in the office at the same time, maintaining a desk for each person may become less practical or a good use of space. Especially if you are limited on space and are aiming to increase social distance space between desks.

As a result, hot-desking*, combined with rigorous hygiene processes, becomes an option, especially as it frees up more space in the office to enable desk spacing to be increased.

As does, creating separate ‘landing zones’* where occasional visitors to the office can simply plug in their laptop and connect their work devices, so that they can work effectively for the short time they are in the office. Again, this will need to be combined with rigorous cleaning and hygiene processes.

* PLEASE NOTE. In the early weeks/months after lockdown, desk sharing should be discouraged and so these solutions are slightly longer term. Having said that, your office space may make spacing difficult and so sharing combined with rigorous hygiene methods may be a practical solution.

Meeting with added space

Another consideration will be having more meeting spaces. Adopting more flexible working tends to mean that office time is utilised for face to face interactions such as meetings – those that can’t be done via Zoom anyway!

As such, creating office space with private, quiet meeting spaces where your team can meet while maintaining some social distance will be more important. Creating new rooms with office partitions is one solution, another is the use of screens and dividers to separate some spaces and break up noise.

Open plan… what to do?

Over the last decade or so, businesses have moved to increasingly open plan designs to encourage a more social, interactive way of working.

These layouts undoubtedly maximise space and interaction but, of course, encourage close working with colleagues… social distancing really wasn’t a consideration!

While creating an individual office for every person is neither desirable nor practical, what other options are there for making the open-plan space more in line with our current needs?

Space planning, time to reassess

The 2-metre gap we are now all familiar with means that we really do need to reassess how we are using our workspaces going forward.

Whilst, hopefully, the need for it will reduce, most workers will be far more aware of the need for personal space and this makes banks of desks squeezed closely together less acceptable.

Now, before you start pulling your carefully laid out desk plan apart, this is the time for some thought and space planning!

Our office interiors team use 2D and 3D CAD design tools to look at all the various office layout options for your space, how many desks can seat places can fit where while maintaining gaps/space.

They will also consider furniture options to not only save space but also to provide each person increased personal space.

Space planning combined with clever design can maximise your space and efficiency even while increased personal space.

Making your mark

It can be hard to visualise personal space boundaries particularly in an office your team has been working in for many years. Signage to remind people to be observant is helpful in the short term, even if it is just printed out signs/messages. Remember to change them regularly so that they remain impactful (and, not just become ‘wallpaper’ we are able to ignore).

Check out a range of signage solutions.

Another short term measure is using tape on the floor to indicate appropriate distances and spaces. Effectively creating safe walking routes to keep people walking to close to those working for example.

SPECIAL NOTE: Signage is also important for businesses to consider when updating their Risk Assessments in light of Covid-19. We have launched a social distancing signage pack to specifically provide the items you are likely to need.

Clever flooring

On new office refurbishments, where flooring is being replaced, you can use the carpet/tile design to visually separate working areas and walkways.

See signage and flooring solutions

Divide and conquer

Not your team, obviously, your space! While putting up walls can be costly and cause issues with your open lighting, heating, air conditioning etc, a more practical solution are office screens, partitions and dividers.

The use of screens provides a clearly defined personal working space and provides a more isolated/protected space. Being non-permanent fixtures, they can also be moved as your office needs change, for example creating bigger or smaller spaces for individuals or meetings.

Floor standing large screens create a barrier and will also help reduce office noise. Where banks of desks are already in place, you can also retro-fit desk screens to provide a greater divide between the users.

Perspex screens

Traditionally screens are solid and not see-through which is great for privacy but less so when being used throughout the office space. An alternative is a perspex screen that is see-through, blocking less light and creating a more inclusive feel in the office.

Check out the screens installed for clients in reception areas

Furniture solutions

Office furniture, such as storage cupboards can be relocated to create interoffice barriers/dividers to split up office space. Even the use of large office plants can help create awareness of and enforce greater distancing.

Integrating communications technology into each workspace will also provide a way for employees to communicate and interact while at their desks without the need to share space. Ideas include sufficient plugs and USB charging points, pc screens off the desk, PC boxes under the table, integrated phone technology, to name but a few.

Clean, clean, clean

Whether you are adopting flexible working, increased spacing, revised layout or, more likely, a combination of all, the new mantra will be hygiene and cleaning.

Keeping surfaces clear will make cleaning easier, so make sure your office space includes plenty of office storage… and keep cleaning materials accessible.

Installing and maintaining hand sanitiser stations are just one of the practical ways to help employees maintain hygiene.

New times, new thinking

These are indeed different times and, as we come through the other side of the pandemic, it is right that we consider our working practices and how we want these to look in the future.

The office, even the open-plan office, will still be a part of how we work but this will need to be balanced with sensible and practical layout to protect our colleagues and employees.

Source One Consulting is looking forward to working with clients on taking on these challenges, finding creative and practical solutions.

Office fit out & refurbishment experts

Source One Consulting brochure

Since 2002 Source One have been working with business across the UK on fit-out and refurbishment projects of all sizes.

We work with a wide range of business including offices,  commercial, retail, education (schools & colleges), health (surgeries etc).

Find out more about Source One by downloading our brochure or our case studies