What Will A Post-Pandemic Office Refurbishment Look Like?

September 2020

By the time employees resurface in UK offices post-pandemic, changes will need to be made. According to HRreview, 61% of the UK workforce have reservations about returning to the office.

These concerns are reflected in the number of white-collar employees returning to the office; a little more than 50%. At the beginning of August, 69% of employees based in London opted to continue working from home despite, Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving businesses the all-clear to reopen.

report published by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) underscores that workplace facility managers need to implement Covid-secure measures in order to alleviate staff concerns.

Companies are obliged to adhere to social distancing rules. New operating norms should be addressed, and health and wellbeing solutions should be installed to demonstrate the value employees bring to the workplace.

Office refurbishment and fit-out projects provide a cost-effective solution. Refurbs are also less disruptive than relocating to an office which may not resolve many of the problems you will encounter in a post-pandemic workplace.

Designing and installing the right office design, floor plan and furniture demonstrates that your company cares about its workforce, supports your company culture and compliments workflows, operations, productivity and profitability.

Decision-makers will naturally seek to lower peak rates of office rentals by utilising space efficiently whilst decreasing the number of workstations.

Workplace design consultants will be relied upon up to help boards and employees feel safe by implementing visible changes that offer assurances their wellbeing is protected.

Self-Cleaning Surfaces

Experts have discovered that coronavirus can survive on common surfaces such as wood, plastic and stainless steel for up to 72-hours. In the near future, we expect to see more self-cleaning furniture designs that cater to offices.

Self-cleaning furniture contains a polymer infused with titanium dioxide. When the plastic surfaces are exposed to sunlight, it triggers a chemical reaction that kills germs and bacteria commonly found in office environments.

In contrast, surfaces like unfinished wood, soft stone, and stainless steel can be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Cardboard has been shown to eliminate coronavirus in as little as 24-hours which makes these 3-way desk screens an ideal choice for segregating teams.

Advancements in antimicrobial technologies are expected to make it possible for office furniture manufacturers and refurbishment suppliers to offer a wider range of self-preserving applications including paint, textiles, metals and coatings.

In addition, technologies that operate via motion sensors negate the need for people to use their hands to open doors, operate taps and keypads. Employees can also keep their hands clean by using foot-operated hand sanitiser gel.

Enhanced HVAC air purifying systems also improve air quality. Not only does recycled air reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19, but also removes other bacteria and viruses that typically cause workplace illness.

Refurbished Breakout spaces 

Providing flexible workspaces is still a priority for office refurbishments despite the desk sharing the philosophy of previous agile working no longer be a possibility.

Employees still want autonomy to work in zones that are most conducive to the task they are performing at any given point in the day. Quiet areas and private booths will come heavily into play in new-look office retrofits.

Modular breakout areas such as cafe-style retreats, pleasant outdoor or biophilic zones and lounge areas provide employees with the opportunity to relax and recharge the brain. Health and wellbeing features should be a prominent feature in Covid-secure office designs.

Breakout furniture should accommodate a handful of people whilst adhering to social distancing protocols. “Collision areas” should be flexible enough to allow teams to collaborate and brainstorm in a multifunctional and vibrant space whilst placing barriers that enables them to intuitively maintain a safe distance.

Meeting rooms also have to be multifunctional so that firms can make the most of your office space most of the time. In the majority of traditional offices, meeting rooms are grossly underused.

A higher level of technological capabilities should facilitate face-to-face meetings together with virtual conferences. Fitting relevant powerpoints and sockets for mobile technologies also provide space in which small teams can collaborate without disturbing their colleagues.

Private Pods

Employees will expect to have access to solo-oriented spaces when they return. According to a 2018 study published by the Royal Society, employees were leaning towards more privacy anyway.

The study revealed that open-plan offices had muted face-to-face conversations by up to 70 per cent. Colleagues were sending more email communications to avoid disturbing their neighbours.

Moreover, Sage Journals published a report that revealed workers in an open-plan office suffer psychological stress due to fears of catching infections from their co-workers. Office managers should anticipate fears to increase once employees return to the office.

The response of Chinese multimillionaire, Xu Weiping, is to convert 20 newly constructed offices into 2000 self-contained office pods measuring 3m x 3m. The cubes come complete with kettle, fridge, microwave, video screen, fold-down bed, desk and chair to combine office facilities with the creature comforts of home.

Whilst self-contained micro-environments are not an option for modest office buildings, acoustic pods and private phone booths offer more privacy and lower stress levels. This can also lead to a boost in productivity.

Companies do not need to return to the extremes of private booths that were torn down in the late 1990s. Standalone sound-proof pods provide an option for employees when they need to concentrate or take a break from a team environment.

Office Storage

Experts say the novel coronavirus sent airborne in a sneeze can travel 27-meters. As a result, personal possessions are potentially exposed to infectious droplets of Covid-19.

Modular and bespoke office storage in a refurbished office serves several purposes. Not only do they provide a safe unit for personal possessions and shared office equipment, but they can also be used to direct employees through a one-way system.

In communal spaces and reception areas, tall storage cabinets for housing files can create single direction channels that ensure employees do not have to pass one another head-on.

Free-standing solutions can also serve as screening between workstations without interrupting the design. Personal lockers can also be stored under desks or in an unused part of the building.

SB Workspace provides office furniture solutions and workplace consultancy so firms can effectively utilise space, create efficient workflows and provide a Covid-secure work environment with your employees feel safe spending time in.