How to make your office safe for social distancing

For the most part, architectural office designs have been focused on uniting people and helping them to work together in shared spaces while interacting with a built environment using their hands. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, these architectural trends need to change to create a new kind of working environment where colleagues can perform their daily roles safely.

From adapting doors to open without the use of hands, to creating safer workstations with adequate social distancing, architects are designing new approaches to employ when lockdown ends. Many enterprises are now turning to architects for assistance with making their offices ready to operate within the government’s suggested guidelines to ensure when the return to work begins, they are well prepared to kick-start their business smoothly and safely.

A hands-free approach to working

Lockdown measures and social distancing rules were enforced to stop the coronavirus spreading by people coming into physical contact with each other. However, even with preventative steps taken, the virus can be spread through shared surfaces, which makes opening external and internal office doors a new challenge.

Architects can help businesses by installing additions to doors that allow for hands-free opening and closing. Instead of using hands, these handle designs involve a curved section of plastic sometimes employed in emergency fire exits that allow them to be operated with an arm instead. Affixed to existing handles, they offer a safer way for multiple workers to use doors safely.

Keeping separated and safe

There can be no doubt that to maintain effective social distancing, many companies with limited workspace will need to reduce the number of employees attending offices. Some will no doubt keep part of their staff working remotely or create shifts that share out office time to allow empty desks between colleagues.

Architects can design partitions that enable employees to feel and remain safe while still maintaining a sense of being part of a team. Perspex screens can be transparent or semi-transparent, allowing staff to stay protected from coughs or sneezes while still being able to see each other while they work. These screens can also be used to divide larger areas into smaller work zones, allowing more employees to attend the office at any one time.

Adapting areas for communal use

Areas that are used by multiple employees – such as building lobbies, conference rooms and even break rooms and cafeterias – will not only need strict rules on how many people can use them at a given time, but should also have cleaning zones. New signage will need to be fitted to keep all informed and in some parts of the office marking out acceptable distances with tape may be beneficial.

Architects can help offices to develop dedicated cleaning stations in common areas where hand-gel sanitisers are provided, and disposable gloves and masks are available along, with a place where they can be disposed of safely after use.

For the foreseeable future, the open-plan office with hot desks and a communal coffee maker will need to recede but with these innovative designs from architects, workers will still be able to communicate and collaborate effectively without risk, and get swiftly back in business.

Posted by Mark
June 2, 2020

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