It is unclear when COVID-19 will be brought under control. There is a wide range of parties working on a wide range of potential vaccines, but there is no guarantee of success in this regard, not least because we have never made a successful vaccine for a coronavirus. As a result, it is possible that we will have to just cope with the existence of COVID-19 by reducing the chances of transmission as much as possible, which will necessitate enormous changes in the way that we work. Here are some of the ways that COVID-19 could wind up changing office design:
1. Bigger Spaces
People have been pushing for bigger spaces for some time. Basically, employees don’t enjoy being crammed into workspaces like sardines in a can, meaning that such conditions can have a very real impact on their productivity. As a result, bigger spaces are seen as a solution to this particular problem, though practical considerations mean that the concept hasn’t made as much headway as what interested individuals might have imagined. In any case, COVID-19 means that there will be a huge boost to the popularity of bigger spaces, seeing as how physical distancing remains one of the best ways to minimize its transmission.
2. Clear Cubicles
Generally speaking, people dislike cubicles because they feel cramped and closed-in within them. However, new realities mean that cubicles can provide their occupants with a measure of perceived safety by putting a barrier between them and the rest of the world. Theoretically, clear cubicles could be the best of both worlds by providing that barrier while still letting their occupants look outwards in an unobstructed manner.
3. Better HVAC Systems
The novel coronavirus and a lot of other infectious diseases can spread through the air. Unsurprisingly, this means that a lot of businesses are looking into better HVAC systems to provide their employees with fresher air. However, that kind of upgrade takes a lot of time, so it is possible that employees themselves will cover some of the initial gap by bringing portable air purifiers until that can happen.
4. Different Elevator Designs
Tall buildings are a huge problem when there is an infectious disease terrorizing the entire world. After all, people need to get from floor to floor, which means cramming into small elevators as well as other relatively enclosed spaces. Naturally, this means that experts are looking into ways to enable physical distancing in spite of these limitations, with an excellent example being the potential installation of dividers in elevators so that each person can be isolated from other users of the same elevator.
5. Different Hallway Designs
Speaking of which, hallways are another point of concern in bigger buildings because they see just as much use as elevators while coming packaged with a lot of the same issues. As a result, experts are looking into ways to minimize those issues as well. It remains to be seen what will be adopted, but one idea that has been floated is making them one-way rather than two-way.
6. Changes to Communal Spaces
Unsurprisingly, businesses have been eyeing communal spaces, which increase the chances of infectious diseases spreading by encouraging people to come into contact with one another in either a direct sense or an indirect sense. It is possible that some businesses will just straight-up eliminate communal spaces in preference for creating more individual offices. However, it is also possible that some businesses will retain communal spaces but install various measures to reduce the chances of transmission.
7. More Automation
More automation has been predicted for a long time. However, COVID-19 is likely to increase the automation of doors as well as other places where the novel coronavirus could spread from person to person. After all, a lot of people touch door handles, meaning that eliminating the need for people to manually open and close doors could do a lot to reduce the number of times that people come into contact with such surfaces. Besides this, automated temperature checks and other preventative measures are also likely to explode in popularity because they make it much easier to pick up on potential problems for swift resolution.
8. More Support For Remote Employees
Both businesses and employees have cause to be concerned about employees flooding into workspaces. Due to this, there is likely to be increased support for remote employees, which can provide both sides with plenty of benefits. For example, fewer people on-site mean less risk of transmission, particularly since the freed-up workspace can be adjusted for increased distance between workstations. Likewise, fewer people on-site can make for happier employees, thus enabling businesses to get more productivity out of them. It won’t be possible for every business to change every single one of their employees to a remote employee, but the improvements in telecommunications mean that it is definitely possible to do that for a lot of them.
9. More Support For Staggered Shifts
On a related note, it is likely that a lot of businesses will implement staggered shifts. Primarily, this is helpful because this will reduce the number of people who are entering and exiting a workplace at the same time, thus exposing fewer people to a pathogen if one of them has already been infected.
10. Sneeze Guards
Chances are good that interested individuals have already noticed the much more common use of sneeze guards in a wide range of businesses, particularly for positions such as cashiers and tellers that have to interact with a lot of customers on a regular basis. Simply put, people can send out droplets containing the novel coronavirus by coughing, sneezing, and perhaps even something as commonplace speaking, which is a huge problem when those same droplets can linger in the air for up to three hours’ time (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-basics). Due to this, it makes sense to put up physical barriers that can block something that people can’t block on their own, not least because they have no way of seeing these potentially problematic droplets. In time, it isn’t impossible that businesses will install similar systems in their own offices even for positions that don’t interact with a lot of customers on a regular basis, whether to provide their employees with physical distancing or psychological comfort.