Business leaders and decision makers are no doubt seeking to solve the difficult puzzle this world now faces; how to return to ‘normal’ work life safely and effectively, with minimum disruption and the team’s health and wellbeing at the forefront.
With workplaces emptying in March, we have all witnessed companies the world over diversifying to meet humanitarian need as the crisis has unfolded. From masks to sanitiser and fogging spray, many businesses have morphed into PPE-making powerhouses, supplying our country with the sudden increase in demand.
However, looking through our long-term lens past the haze of lockdown and imposed restrictions, work-from-home has become our ‘new normal’. The thought of returning to the workplace and its high-risk environment is more than daunting. In the immediate present, prevention and containment of disease is the primary concern – achieving the fine balance between introducing enough staff back on-site to function, but not too many to put other staff in danger. Even if this balance is achieved, the workplace is going to look very different! No doubt we may be envisioning a clinical, wipeable office with regular sanitising, masks and fogging. The pathway to agile, flexible and open-plan spaces many companies were embarking on post-Covid is now a risk-fraught journey in which the principles of open plan, sharing space and physical collaboration are being turned on their head.
We have seen many hygiene products surface in these recent weeks. From plastic to cardboard, a plethora of dividers and screens are being installed in public areas, shops and workplaces. But we have reservations about the longevity of these products – it is doubtful that anyone would wish their desk to be shrouded in plastic for the foreseeable future! So how do we blend the hygienic needs of today’s world with a stimulating, productive and aesthetically-pleasing environment?
We are pleased to confirm that we won’t have to revert to the archaic ‘cubicle farms’ of previous decades! It’s been great to observe furniture manufacturers adapting to current demand in a thoughtful and sustainable manner. One that really impressed us was Frovi, who have brought out a creative, adaptive and enduring desk divide, the Picket Screen. It doesn’t completely discard the open-plan and agile concept but meets the protective needs of individuals in the workplace. For our inhouse designers, client requirements and expectations have unsurprisingly shifted, with office design and fitout bringing new dimensions to new spaces and refurbishments alike. It’s certain that expert design will be key to shaping the way forward for the workplace environment in order to best support our clients as they grow and thrive in our changing world.