Future of office space layouts challenged by COVID-19

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The Pandemic has rattled our routines in many ways including our jobs.

Experts say our workplace will need to adjust before many businesses can reopen.

CGTN’s France Kuo reports.

As all of us make major shifts of our workspace experts warn when we return our mindsets will need to shift as well.

“We’re going to go back to the days where we have barriers put in place to separate employees and to maintain distance among employees. So I think it will be a major upheaval for organizations to reconfigure their workspaces that way.”, said Brad Bell a Professor at Cornell University.

International real estate firm ‘Cushman & Wakefield’ is offering options. It worked with firms in China after the pandemic subsided and offices reopened.

“There are a lot of learnings after returning over a million people in China. A handful of them come to mind. Number one, the government or public health authorities, landlords and tenants all collaborating together and looking at this as a public health issue together has been incredibly useful for our folks in China. It goes a long way in terms of getting everybody on the same page and setting expectations.”
(BUTT WITH THIS SOT REUTERS 0130 @04:56 / cover with temperature screening photos REUTERS 0130 @04:06)
“Of course, the screening processes, whether it be temperature checks or other screening processes, balancing those with maintaining privacy and leveraging the appropriate technology to do so with contact tracing.”, said Bill Knightly of Cushman & Wakefield.

Cushman & Wakefield came up with a promotional video of a prototype design, showing how an office might look with post-pandemic adjustments.

It starts with the elevator ride, complete with a sticker on the ground designating a so-called ‘safe zone’. Once you’ve arrived in the office individuals pay attention to tape on the floor and circular marks surrounding the desks. They show areas your co-workers personal space.

“It comes down to some basic concepts, things like colored carpet or, in a less sophisticated or expensive application, taping off what six feet workstations look like. So it’s very visual.”, said Bill Knightly of Cushman & Wakefield.

If you don’t work in a luxury environment, reinforcements can help. Those include UV lighting and air filters.

“In some cases, installing plexiglass or some other form of sneeze or cough guards to give folks additional insurance.”, said Bill Knightly of Cushman & Wakefield.

Some experts worry with the focus on safety socializing will suffer.

“In my own research, we’ve found that the more isolation that employees experience or perceive, that has a negative impact on a number of important outcomes, you know, their satisfaction with their work. I think it can certainly lead to stress. It can undermine well-being. We were inherently kind of social animals. And to take that away from people, I think, you know, can be damaging.”, said Brad Bell a Professor at Cornell University.

Consultants say such changes don’t necessarily mean a complete reinvention but a re-thinking.