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Changing Office Design to Create a Safe Space

office space
19 April 2021
 

According to union safety representatives, some businesses may be asking employees to return to unsafe workplaces as restrictions start to lift across the UK, but this can be tackled with interior design consideration as Steelcase explain.

Returning to the office and many other places of work is an important step in recovery from the Covid pandemic, as despite conflicting reports, one in five UK employees reported a drop in productivity while working from home and nearly a quarter are less engaged, but organisations need to commit to doing so safely. To facilitate this, workplace experts at Steelcase have worked alongside transmission specialists at MIT to research design strategies to mitigate the spread of disease at work.

 

Individual Apprehension but Collective Eagerness to Reopen
 

Many fear necessary precautions are not being taken in offices that have been able to re-open, pointing to the recent strike action by staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea following the largest workplace outbreak of the pandemic, where more than 600 workers tested positive.

Those with customer facing roles are also concerned at a return to in-person interactions. For UK Job Centres, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union surveyed 1,299 members and found that three in five workers feel unsafe about going back. Only 21 per cent of those felt assuredly safe to begin dealing with face to face appointments at work.

Returning to the office and many other places of work is an important step in recovery from the Covid pandemic, as despite conflicting reports, one in five UK employees reported a drop in productivity while working from home and nearly a quarter are less engaged, but organisations need to commit to doing so safely. To facilitate this, workplace experts at Steelcase have worked alongside transmission specialists at MIT to research design strategies to mitigate the spread of disease at work. Steelcase, the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world, recently released their Global Report of 32,000 people across 10 countries, uncovering the top emerging needs and expectations for the future of the workplace which reveals the blueprint to create a better work experience. 

 

Three Points to Reduce Transmission Risk

 

On average, 98 per cent of seats in the office are currently at risk of transmission due to lack of space or spatial division. To make infection mitigation a priority, Steelcase has devised three workplace redesign strategies that ensure that the office is a safe space to return to, empowering employees to regain a sense of connection and purpose: 

  1. Change Geometry: simply rotating desks by ninety degrees will allow employees to face in different directions, thus restricting the possibility for transmissionAdditionally, physical separation elements ensure that health standards can be met – even when minimum distancing is not possible.
  2. Visual Cues: by signposting traffic flows, distancing guidelines, and unused spaces, workplaces will be able to limit the risk of transmission and keep employees safe.
  3. Flexible Furniture and Power: introducing furniture that can be reconfigured will give organisations greater resilience to adapt to greater or lesser distancing regulations moving forward. Remote power is also a great tool that empowers employees to reclaim unused spaces and even work outside (weather permitting).

With 97 per cent of workers wanting to return to the office – either some or most of the time – businesses need to focus on how employees can reclaim the workplace safely.
Facilities Managers looking for Interior Designers or Workplace Design & Strategies can also use the Spotted Cow Media Business Directory.

 

Picture: two masked employees, working on laptops at distanced desks in an office.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 19 April 2021

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