While there are many uncertainties associated with the long-term effects of the current COVID-19 healthcare crisis, there certainly is a consensus that life will be different after this threat has eased.
This is particularly relevant for small businesses which will be seeking efficiencies as adapt to a post-pandemic world.
One area is in the realm of what our offices will look like in the era of social distancing and sanitation. There will certainly be more people working at home as more companies accept it as an efficient and cost-saving measure. As we become more familiar with various technology platforms, the dynamic of a remote workforce is likely to grow. Keep in mind that under five percent of the workforce operated from home prior to the pandemic. That number is expected to increase significantly. Companies will likely try to save money after revenue loss and could move toward smaller workplaces. And, cutting rent costs is much less painful than laying off employees, especially for small businesses.
Some of these changes in how we view office space have been accelerated by the pandemic. But companies will always need offices and some will opt for having larger spaces to enhance social distancing. Whether offices are larger or smaller, there will be changes in the environments and how we interact with each other.
One major change will be that signage will increase throughout these facilities. Some will:
- Direct traffic patterns
- Remind employees about social distancing policies
- Enforce the use of face masks
- Encourage the use of hand sanitizers
While these signs must be very visible, building owners and employers must make sure they are not intrusive or cause alarm among workers. Signs should blend in with the overall décor of the offices rather than jump out with bright colors or flashing lights. They must be tasteful. If designed correctly, they will quickly become the norm.
It’s also likely we’ll see “sneeze guards”, floor-to-ceiling partitions, and much more open space.
While the pandemic is the cause for creating more open space, this is a trend that was likely on the horizon. In recent years the amount of square footage allotted per employee has gone down from 211.4 sq. ft. in 2009 to 17.6 square feet in 2017, according to Cushman & Wakefield. This has led to widespread complaints about loud office colleagues and lack of elbow space. For many, social distancing will be welcome.
There are other changes we can anticipate:
- More doors that open automatically
- Voice-activated elevators
- Amped up ventilation systems
- UV sanitizer lights activated at night
- Use of copper fixtures and fabrics that retain fewer germs
- The decrease in “densification” with the creation of more private spaces and personal offices
- The installation of anti-microbial panels and coatings which neutralize bacterial growth
- Conference rooms that will accommodate fewer people or have sitting areas separate from the board room tables
There’s no question that the post-pandemic office environment will be different. Some of these changes were on the horizon, but the health care crisis has fast-forwarded this dynamic with the rapid acceptance of remote employees, the acceptance of technology, and the scaling back of office space.
The critical aspect of incorporating these changes is to do them in a non-intrusive and minimally threatening way so that employees can easily transition in what has become a rapidly changing world.
Daniel C. Venet is Executive Vice President of CHB Industries. Headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, the company provides office /government buildings, houses of worships, and homes with creative security, solar, decorative, and anti-graffiti window film solutions. For more information, visit www.chbwindowfilm.com.