How Offices are Rearchitecting Their Spaces For Post-COVID
Tips on how to make your return to the office both smooth and effective
by Nikhil Bendre - May 27th, 2021
The issue of COVID in the US is slowly but surely declining as more and more of us get access to vaccinations. It finally feels like we can breathe just a little bit easier and like the end of this nightmare is in sight. However, the shift back to “normal life” creates a new challenge for HR managers and business owners. As we work to find normalcy again, businesses must decide on post-COVID office policies, floor plans, and more. Some organizations are diving head-first and continuing operations like normal, some are implementing a hybrid set-up, and some may not plan on returning to in-person work at all! With that being said, here’s how GoCo and some other companies are planning on tackling their return to the office and its redesign.
A look at our plans for the GoCo office:
We’ve decided to take more of a hybrid approach in our return to in-person work. Rather than making office attendance mandatory, we’re using our office as a space to facilitate productivity on the terms of the employee. We’re moving away from the structure of assigned desks and workspaces and more towards set-up of:
Designated Quiet Zones
Since not everyone will be in the office everyday, having assigned desks just doesn’t make sense anymore. Also, our current meeting room is in the middle of the office, serving as a divider between the work and play areas. This will no longer be the case. Of course, our redesign is still a work in progress, but the goal is for our office to just be a place to hang out while getting work done. As our very own Administrative Assistant, Ky Nguyen, puts it, our theme is “Good Vibes Only!” Furthermore, our People Operations Manager, Liz Orea, is taking inspiration from a college library to really harness the “we-work” environment.
We’re trying to make this transition as effective as possible while simultaneously being mindful of our budget, so we’re working with our existing furniture as much as possible and rearranging it! However, we absolutely adore Ikea, so we went there to find our coffee tables, couches, boards, shelves, cube shelves, bookshelves, and display cases!
Some insights from the community:
Eden Cheng, Marketing Director and Founder at WeInvoice
The WeInvoice office is taking social distancing extremely seriously, so they’re taking a number of measures to ensure a safe return to work. These include:
Rearranging their existing furniture in order to ensure appropriate spacing is being followed.
Installing plexiglass barriers around areas that have high foot traffic. Conference rooms, desks, and hallways are all potential locations for these barriers.
Check out shopPOPdisplays for a variety of plexiglass barriers, from desk shields to standing floor shields!
Repurposing communal areas that have become obsolete as a result of social distancing, such as the cafeteria and lounges, into additional workspace so that employees can have an adequate amount of space in between them.
Implementing more technology to reduce surface contact. For instance, this endeavor includes motion detecting faucets and dispensers in the bathrooms!
Marina Vaamonde, Founder and Commercial Real Estate Investor at Property Cashin
Marina’s organization is also installing dividers in their space. However, unlike the plexiglass barriers, they are opting for a more economic route. Property Cashin plans on utilizing standard plastic wrap dividers in heavily occupied spaces. She suggests building frames of plastic or wood to attach the plastic wrap if your ceilings are too high or if there are no walls nearby to leverage.
Stephen Light, Co-Owner and Chief Marketing Officer at Nolah Mattress
Nolah Mattress is putting a COVID-spin on your typical cubicle set up. In an attempt to facilitate communication and interaction while simultaneously minimizing viral transmission, this organization is implementing individual box-type offices with transparent barriers. The basic, opaque separators make the space seem more crowded and block access to other people. A clear barrier is an effective and easy solution to the challenge of safe collaboration in the office.
shopPOPdisplays also offers this solution!
Olivia Tran, Co-Founder at CocoFax
In their approach to tackling the return to in-person work, CocoFax is emphasizing the importance of air quality and proper ventilation in their office. Here’s how they plan on going about this:
Increasing the amount of fresh air coming in while diluting pollutants is a way to reduce the risk of viral transmission.
Using filters that have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of at least 13 in order to capture any airborne viruses within air that is being recirculated.
Check out this air filter from Amazon!
One last tip from Olivia is raising the humidity level to around 50% to hinder viral development!
Check out this humidifier from Target!
Gabriel Duncan, CEO and Founder at ViscoSoft
ViscoSoft’s office is located in North Carolina, where they enjoy decent weather for practically the whole year. Let’s take a look at how they’re taking advantage of that:
Creating an outdoor workspace! They’re planning on making the space fully functional with an abundance of power outlets, fast wifi, ergonomic chairs, and umbrellas for shade.
Additionally, ViscoSoft’s plan includes creating two separate break areas to accommodate people with varying COVID comfort levels. One will be spaced out with barriers in place while the other will essentially be the same as a pre-pandemic break room.
Anthony Martin, CEO and Founder of Choice Mutual
This pitch is less about the office and more about the individual. Choice Mutual plans on starting a system of “traffic light wristbands.” The objective is to set certain colors in correspondence with varying comfort levels with physical contact. As Anthony describes it, “ Green would indicate that the person can be approached as normal. Orange would indicate that you should exercise caution and only engage in contact when necessary. Red, however, would send a message that you don't wish to be approached at all under any circumstances.” This system is a great way to be mindful of peers while remaining sensitive to each individual’s situation with COVID. We never know who may be immunocompromised or live with immunocompromised family members. Anthony’s traffic light system helps clearly establish boundaries while avoiding any potential conflict.
Check out these wristbands from Wristband Resources!
John Ross, President and CEO at Test Prep Insight
John and his team have an optimistic outlook on shifting their office around to fit COVID guidelines. It’s almost like a slight renovation:
They’re looking at this change as an opportunity to expand certain offices so that some people can get larger, more private office spaces. However, they will keep their bullpen area as before.
Also, most office walls will be made of glass. This way, barriers are in place, but social interaction is still encouraged.
Mickael Robinson, Security Expert at Cheap SSL Security
In addition to the obvious COVID precautions, Cheap SSL Security is also paying attention to the office from the employee’s perspective. This entails:
Providing workstations that promote a variety of postures, including sitting, stool height, lounging, perching, and standing. This decision allows their team to be more strategic in their furniture placement while benefiting their physical well-being.
Check out this adjustable standing desk from Amazon!
Personality is another focus for the office. This return to work is an opportunity to redesign the office to “establish the tone for an organization’s brand and culture.”
Navigating the return to the office is definitely a daunting task, but we hope that these insights from our team and our community can help alleviate some of that stress. Remember to implement changes that are best suited for your organization’s specific needs and operations, and feel free to take advantage of any of the ideas that we’ve provided here!