As businesses start the process of safely re-integrating employees back into the office, now is the time to consider how workplace design can support a ‘new normal’ in a post Covid-19 economy and provide a safe, reassuring working environment that can adapt quickly during any future periods of infection control.
It is likely that remote working will become embedded in normal working practices, with workplaces offering a solutions hub where employees come together only when necessary rather than a traditional work hub, a default location where all work is completed. We look at how these changing business needs will influence workplace design considerations.
1. Flexible layout options
With social distancing a requirement for reopening workplaces, and with employees likely to be wary of close physical proximity, flexible seating arrangements can offer long term compliance with health and safety considerations. With increased remote working, workplaces will be able to provide a lower density of hot desking workstations and adaptable spaces that can be used either as meeting rooms or additional workstation areas as required.
2. Demarcation of activity zones
Compliance with social distancing can be supported with flooring designs that identify activity zones to influence employee behaviour and offer a reassuring sense of safety. A subtle yet effective floor can be designed with a combination of wood and stone designs and different laying patterns, for example with rug effects to highlight the boundaries of individual workstations or the use of abstract patterns to highlight shared spaces, collaboration areas or quiet zones.
3. Directional wayfinding
Where employees are required to maintain physical distancing by navigating spaces in prescribed directions, geometric flooring designs such as herringbone laying patterns can clearly indicate the direction of travel required. With the flexibility to be combined in any shade or size, Karndean flooring is the ideal choice for bespoke designs on walkways, creating an interesting yet natural looking floor. For example, a single shade used in a different laying pattern will provide subtle directional instructions. Alternatively, contrasting designs and tile sizes can be laid side by side to clearly identify routes.
4. Creating space divisions
Physical distancing and infection control can be more challenging in open plan spaces, therefore these layouts may become less desirable. Introducing workstation divisions and room dividers using glazed units will offer employees both protection from passing on infections whilst maintaining visual connectivity with colleagues.
Above image features RKP8215 Warm Brushed Oak
5. Communicating to employees
Employees returning to the workplace following a period of isolation are likely to experience a degree of anxiety. An interior that clearly identifies how individuals can keep themselves and others safe, with demarcated walkways and spaces for personal working, collaboration and socialising, will offer the visual reassurance that employees need to feel confident that the environment is a safe place to work.
6. Supporting wellbeing
Over recent months, our emotional connection with the natural world has been an important factor to reducing stress. Workplace designs will continue to develop these connections, with large windows that allow natural light to stream in and the use of glazing units that can be manually opened, enabling employees to control local air circulation. Introducing materials inspired by nature and living planting is a quick and easy way to bring biophilic benefits into workplaces, improving internal air quality and employee mental wellbeing.
7. Hygienic surfaces
The use of materials that are easy to clean is a key factor in maintaining a safe working environment. An interior that features clean lines, light colours and smooth surfaces will support effective cleaning regimes and also offer a visual reassurance of hygiene. Unlike textile floor coverings and grout lines, Karndean flooring doesn’t trap dust and micro-organisms, while the K-Guard+ protective surface treatment gives a hygienic surface that is easy to clean.
Read our previous investigations into the implications of Covid-19 on the design of student accommodation and community living.