Offices and studios are a prime zone for communal interactions; they act as a community binder which helps in making society more proactive and collaborative. They also remain crucial spaces to generate creativity and ideas. But in recent times, many of the organizations have moved on to the ‘Work from Home’ concept, which has proven to be a rather disconnecting work atmosphere. In the wake of this coronavirus pandemic, the ‘Work from Home’ scenario will be at its peak but it will eventually start moving towards the ‘new normal’ in a workplace as well. Researchers have also stated that a physical workplace ensures much more productivity and efficiency over a rather disconnecting ‘work from home’ system.
Digitalization is a disconnect
Digitalization has its fair share of boons, but some of its cons also include a level of lone lines that gets developed due to this digital world. A human mind needs physical interactions to work out a task. A one on one experience also increases the productivity and efficiency of a work environment. A lack of a collaborative atmosphere leads to a laidback work culture that lessens human inventions and ideas.
Materials at a workplace
The post-pandemic architecture will be hugely based on efficiency and workability than having an aesthetical weightage. Materials will play a huge role in defining the ideal workable atmosphere as per the new normal. Materials that are easy to clean will be at the forefront of this change. Upholstery, leather, or other allied materials will now be on a back burner and will be replaced by Wood, steel, etc. due to their favorable qualities.
The main criterion of safety against the pandemic is to avoid social contact and maintain a safe distance. This can be achieved by making automatic openable doors and elevators that have a foot sensor or buttons to ensure the less use of hands in these activities. Many companies have also stared badge only payments in canteens where all the shareable things like salt and pepper bottles are avoided and are rather given individually. Coffee stations are also designed to support a no-touch design solution to guarantee safety.
A new mode of behavior is also initiated amongst the people which involves no handshaking or friendly hugs. The ‘Namaste’ as a gesture of joining the palms has been hugely appreciated in these times. This, in turn, will affect the way furniture designing and spatial segregation are done. The stereotypical measurements of a table design with a chair will also be altered.
Some of the offices have also started remote working for most of their staffs with alternative office shifts to allow a lesser density in a rather larger space. The basic furniture renovations such as making see-through partitions and increasing the gaps between two desks are some of the immediate changes.
‘Work from Home’ office
As more and more companies are working on shifts in between dedicated office work and work from home system, a need to have a dedicated zone as a workspace is now an important factor while designing homes. A well-equipped area or zone which has a task chair, desk, lamp, wireless network access with ample sound cancellations is now a must.
The basic layouts of a housing project will now have to be rethought and designed.
“Workstations were about privacy and acoustics – now they represent a physical separation between colleagues” – says Brent Capron interior design director at global design practice Perkins and Will in New York who has come up with a solution called ‘sneeze guard’ which has an additional panel fitted between socially distanced desks to allow the workspaces to have a low cost yet high impacting measure.
Office design correlation to a hospital design
The designers have now started thinking an office space in the framework of a hospital office designs. The ideation from distancing norms to the choice of materials that are well-suited in a hospital design can be a beneficial method to ensure safety and conscious space making.
Doctor Lisa Winston, the hospital epidemiologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General at the University of California, San Francisco. “We know that flu spreads in workplaces among healthy working adults,” she said. An analysis in 2016 of various researches states that most of the flu transmission takes place in an office environment.
This pandemic will in turn lead to a major rethinking on the concept of having open offices and barrier-free workspaces. Space, where people can collaborate safely, will be on a high priority while designing. The pandemic might have affected the way a work environment functions but it can still go back to some of its aspects by making basic yet impactful changes in zoning and space-making.