In the aftermath of Covid-19, when a major refit isn’t an option, how do you plan for the new office future? asks David O’Coimin.
The pandemic has changed the workspace for good. Returning to a pre-Covid normal is not an option and the number of businesses that can start again and completely refit sites are few and far between.
So how do we adapt space to meet post-pandemic requirements? The answer is going to lie in modularity and flexibility: furniture and spaces that can adapt by task, time, venue and user.
1. Make use of every corner
Privacy pods – also referred to as huddle spaces, phone booths, reflection spaces – are enclosed spaces to seat an individual or small group. These pods that can play a critical role as businesses adapt to a post-Covid reality.
Having the option to use all areas of a building will be important. Social distancing places pressure on the capacity of any space. Workspaces won’t immediately return to full capacity and, as the flow of employees gradually increases, businesses will be challenged to provide spaces that work in terms of social distancing and everyday productivity.
Pod solutions being built on wheels makes them a valuable proposition as they can be wheeled to any unused and unloved corners of an office to transform them into meeting spaces and breakout areas.
2. Provide psychological and physical comfort
The immediate post-Covid office will be as much about psychological comfort as physical comfort. Health and safety concerns will be front of mind and business must ensure that hygiene measures are visible and clearly communicated.
Most people have been working from home for months. They will have developed new working routines and be used to home comforts. Returning to an open office that is sterile and functional will not be appealing.
Creating areas for calm reflection and re-energising will help individuals to transition to the office environment. This does not mean designating valuable space to become ‘chill out’ zones. Instead, acoustic, semi-enclosed pods can be positioned where they are most of value so people can step away from the office hubbub to relax for a moment.
3. Change roles, change behaviours
As greater numbers opt to work remotely, the role of the workspace will evolve toward collaboration and social functions. We will also need personal spaces that offer enough privacy but sufficient openness to not feel claustrophobic or unhygienic.
If those same spaces double as convenient meeting spots and hubs for socialising so much the better.
What’s needed are acoustically designed pods for the use of private calls with no interference from office noise.
The acoustic design means the pods remain open rather than closed-off with doors so individuals can retreat into spaces that feel private without isolating themselves completely from colleagues. Because these spaces are protected from outside noise they can be located more or less anywhere in the building.
4. Flex for the future
As more becomes known about coronaviruses, advice to businesses is likely to change so building flexibility into any return-to-office planning is key.
Space that might one day serve as a quiet area for video-conferencing can become extra seating in reception to enable guests to be managed through the building. Equally, space can be made for people to relax and take a break without having to dedicate entire rooms to such comforts.
Businesses are challenged with striking the balance between staff safety and providing a productive environment. Cleverly designed pods can provide some immediate solutions.
David O'Coimin is CEO & founder of Nookpod