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Wednesday, 27 May

Adapting To The New Normal In Workplace Design And Utilisation

Adapting To The New Normal In Workplace Design And Utilisation

With workers in the UK seeing the first relaxation of lockdown rules, how organisations will keep employees safe as they begin to transition back to their places of work is front of mind for many.

Natalie Barnett, Managing Director of Hudd.io, questions how offices should look in light of continued concern over the spread of COVID-19.

 

"Adaptations are likely to be seen across an organisation with rooms hosting perhaps half the number of attendees as would previously be the norm. In fact, some customers have already introduced policies whereby there will be no more than ten people physically in any meeting for the rest of the calendar year."

–Natalie Barnett

Managing Director, Hudd.io

 

Meeting and collaboration spaces will change 

 

The open-plan office, previously the norm for many, is no longer seen as a suitable option in its current form, offering little in the way of personal space or protection from others. However, with many organisations investing in multiple meeting and collaboration spaces to support that open working environment, there is an opportunity to utilise this estate to encourage workers back into the office in a safe manner.

Take the huddle space, for example. Designed for collaboration between small numbers of people, the huddle room could offer a useful workspace in this new scenario, albeit for smaller groups than originally intended. While spaces may have been designed for six people, now they may only be able to accommodate two or three at a socially safe level, and with a few simple steps, they can be made even safer for users.

For example, Hudd.io’s AV furniture partners are already making protective screens available that simply rest on the desk to create a physical barrier between participants, helping to prevent the spread of germs while ensuring people maintain a safe distance from each other. Easy to install, they are also easy to clean and, crucially, they ensure room users to still able to comfortably see and speak to each other. 

Huddio screen divider

Picture: An example of protective screens available that rest on the desk to create a physical barrier between participants

 

Huddle rooms will also be used more by individuals, whether to keep in touch with remote workers – something that will become ever more central to the workplace as it seems unlikely that everyone will return to work at the same time – or to simply ensure they are socially distanced. With hot-desking looking likely to be discouraged, these rooms could well become a crucial element of the new-look office.

Adaptations are likely to be seen across an organisation with rooms hosting perhaps half the number of attendees as would previously be the norm. In fact, some customers have already introduced policies whereby there will be no more than ten people physically in any meeting for the rest of the calendar year.

Another option being discussed is similar to the model being practised in schools across Europe whereby half of all students come in for one half of the week and the other half come in on opposite days. Each side is taught remotely on the days where they are not in the physical building. Similarly, start and finish times look set to be staggered to avoid bottlenecks on entering and leaving the building. This way companies can promote social distancing while keeping enterprises running.  

To make this work, companies must implement a robust work-from-home policy, something which many did not have pre-coronavirus. This should cover key issues such as whether you can successfully complete your job at home, the technology you need in order to be able to do this and who is responsible for sourcing and paying for this equipment.

While the immediate response to coronavirus was to simply get on as best as possible, as workers begin to return to offices, remote workers are likely to want to upgrade their home setup to offer audio and video quality more on a par with their in-office counterparts. Also consider issues such as support for home workers; as the tech they rely on expands and becomes more complex, so will their need for a clear reporting structure should they encounter any issues.

Picture: A silver Macbook computer on a table

Article written by Natalie Barnett

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