How to prepare your workplace for office return

(C) 2021 Radoslaw NAWROCKI / dla SKANSKA POLSKA

Skanska’s Adam Targowski outlines six key actions we can take to make office working safer as we learn to live with Covid-19.

Since March 2020 Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our lives, and none more so than our working environments. As we return to the office, the workplace needs to be designed to limit the spread of other infectious viral outbreaks. But what’s key to adjusting offices and maintaining the right balance between health and safety, comfort, sustainability, and privacy rights for office users?

Skanska has taken steps to outline a way that working environments can be readjusted for employees who will be returning to offices. Our efforts were directed at showing how to create a safe working space which will encourage people to work in offices and at the same time maintain the company culture. Together with our partners we tried to redefine the future of workplaces and adapt the concept to help respond to their needs.

The office of the future will not be just some location that the employees have to go to every, day but a place where they themselves want to be. It will facilitate socialising, sharing experiences, and finding the balance between personal and working life.

In the process of adapting to the current situation, Skanska has developed the “Care for Life Office Concept”. This has been devised with a focus on making employees feel safe when they come back to work. Here we outline our recommended solutions for fitouts that meet pandemic guidelines:

1. More focus rooms

A vital motivator to work in the office is now a quiet workplace, allowing people to concentrate. Working in an enclosed, comfortable space increases productivity. Turn an open space into several focus rooms with different functions. Allow for standing or seated work as well as rest.

2. Amenities in spaces enabling collaboration

According to a Skanska study, people still prefer going to the office. However, in the post-pandemic era, offices will have to offer more than before – they should be better, more comfortable and exciting than what we have at home. Different types of work spaces, such as creative work rooms or remote forms of collaboration will improve safety and freedom of choice in how to work. To help staff relax effectively, team meeting spaces and in-building services should be created, such as coffee shops, games rooms or Pilates classes.

‘Sensors, heat maps, and traffic monitoring are areas of proptech that are already supporting tenants in their management decisions.’

Adam Targowski, Skanska

3. Use of meeting rooms

Meeting room capacity should be reduced. Sensors that collect occupancy data make it possible to control the number of participants. More flexibility in the office space should also be provided. When holding large meetings is not possible in a room, open spaces should be rearranged.

4. Proptech solutions help optimise space occupancy

Computer simulations increasingly drive tenants to optimise space usage based on statistical probabilities. Sensors, heat maps, and traffic monitoring are areas of proptech that are already supporting tenants in their management decisions. Observe, analyse and schedule traffic in your office.

5. Provide desks wider than 1.6 metres

The socially distanced office has reshaped the office furniture. It’s called the ‘Six Feet Office’ and is a way of transforming existing offices into places where the six-feet distance rule is obeyed (6ft = 1.83 metres). Desks that are at least 1.6 metres wide should be provided. This will ensure comfort and make it easier to maintain the necessary social distance. Rows of desks should be arranged two metres apart to keep walkways safe.

6. Suspension of desk-sharing

Desk-sharing is a common solution in flexible offices. However, it should be carefully reviewed, as the workspace should be assigned to only one employee during the day. Thorough disinfection of the workspace is a priority that should be performed every day.

Adam Targowski is environmental director at Skanska’s commercial development business unit in CEE