The global workforce used to be a busy society until we were all sent home. The results of what used to be the world’s largest external work experiment could now be a collective awakening of how the workplace of the future will develop.
Design for the next 100-year-old flu
We have designed buildings that are capable of surviving 100-year floods. As the pandemic keeps up with our expectation of century after century of different varieties of flu, we have not yet anticipated the next 100-year-old flu.
Short-term corrections such as clear plastic nose protectors and floor wallpaper at 6-foot intervals may have become the norm. However, recognizing the global scale of the pandemic may mean increasing the priority given to public health.
Rise in the hybrid workplace
The hybrid workplace as a rising trend can be supported by the analyzes of the digital publishing group Work Design Magazine, which said that 53 percent or more than half of the world’s employees continue to work from home at least once or twice a week during it next a few years.
Hoping to bring back the vibrant office culture with fewer people, employers may prefer additional square footage space to individual workstations. For example, an employer may be able to take away 30 percent of the total area of the individual workstations to make room for smaller meeting rooms for two to four people.
However, these smaller meeting rooms come with a twist – by transforming them into video and teleconferencing rooms. To mimic the same quality of face-to-face meeting communication, these spaces will require greater acoustic technologies than the total office space.
An emigration to the country
We have also seen an emigration of companies – moving out of the city centers and moving to the suburbs or cheaper parts of the country at lower operating costs. While a central headquarters remains a key element of a company’s corporate structure, it would be a more reasonable and meaningful change to have a decentralized, downsized headquarters that is closer to the employees’ homes.
Looking for boundaries between home and office
Before, office design and programming were heavily influenced by home design. Facilities such as dry cleaning, fitness classes, gymnastics party, lounges and free meals and snacks around the clock were offered so that employees could work comfortably and happily.
Today, most employees’ experiences away from home are still fresh in their minds. As a result, many of them may choose offices that visually and functionally remind them of the difference between work and home – two words that have become inextricably linked throughout the pandemic. A possible manifestation of this is the gradual decline of “resimercial” design, a trend that mixes residential element elements in commercial environments.
Another example would be the increased emphasis on ergonomically designed office furniture. Throughout their work from home, many employees have worked long hours on benches and sofas with their laptops and tablets standing up at uncomfortable heights, resulting in the increase in musculoskeletal problems.
Physical barriers do not necessarily correspond to security
Instead of sealing employees in individual hard-walled hooks, we should take advantage of an open floor plan by incorporating both natural and mechanical airflow systems that can effectively filter air.
In traditional air handling systems, overhead ducts are used to push filtered air into a room, eliminating “bad” air and bringing in “clean” air. Our basic understanding of rising hot air would be complicated by the fact that it has to fight its way through a cloud of virus particles that are also exhaled by people nearby. To address this, create a pool of cool, fresh air at a low level where people are more likely to be.
Special attention to hallways
It is human instinct to choose the shortest route from point A to point B. Best to provide adequate signage and floor designations – permanent enclosures that have been shown to be effective in hospitals to avoid the spread of pathogens.
Taking a hands-off approach
Some people have a habit of thoughtlessly touching random surfaces. High-touch surfaces such as countertops and desks can benefit from laminates, some variations of synthetic quartz and fabrics treated with spray-on chemicals. Obvious intervention via non-contact technologies can be useful in the form of artificial intelligence (AI), which enables motion sensors and voice-activated activation to perform specific activities in key areas such as entrances, faucets and comfort rooms.
To encourage hand washing, which has been an important task during the attack on COVID-19, employers can also incorporate more sinks throughout the office space, not just the kitchen and comfort room.
Beyond just clean, green and safe
We are still searching for the perfect formula more than a year after a global experiment with teleworking events. While clean, green and safe seem to be the latest buzzwords in office design with deferred office, many of these solutions have already been promoted by sound building designers for more than a decade. The difference is that we no longer follow them simply for the sake of comfort, but in preparation not only for postponing a way of life, but in healthy anticipation of the next 100-year-old flu.
The author is the chief architect at Fulgar Architects, which manufactures unique and extraordinary design specialties for various real estate companies from hotels, condominiums, museums, commercial, to urban development with mixed use. Visit www.fulgararchitects.com
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