First of all, it must be made very clear that the situation of permanent confinement and economic blockade that we have suffered in recent times is something that will not last forever. Sooner or later a vaccine or some kind of solution for this coronavirus will be found and the waters will return to their rivers within a few months … or a couple of years. The fact that masks are common in Eastern countries is due to the fact that several episodes of the same type have already happened there in the last years, although not as intense (remember the Influenza A), so it is not discarded that even if the COVID-19 ends up being a bad memory, the design of offices will be affected in the future.
The post-COVID-19 era will bring a conception and design of the office of the future very different to what was foreseen before the pandemic, because concepts such as the rotation of a work station or closed rooms for massive meetings will have to disappear, to allow physical contact to practically disappear, as well as to propose different materials or an adapted aesthetic.
The basic rule is to maintain strict hygiene standards in pursuit of that health of employees, the greatest and best value of the company.
The health and well-being of employees will be key in the design of new workplaces. We are committed to combining face-to-face work with teleworking, as one of the key aspects to avoid concentration in the company. In addition, the new Well Building Standard philosophy bursts into these environments in a more impressive way through 10 key parameters in its design, such as air, water, food, lighting, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community.
Materials will necessarily change. Surfaces, handles, toilets and even the frequent contact areas of chairs will be cleaned every day, and so fabrics and upholstery may lose their appeal, while other easy-to-clean materials such as natural or synthetic leather and plastic will gain prominence. Wood can be a good choice, as it is a natural material, warm and pleasant to the touch, but hygienic and easy to clean.
Teleworking is another of the hypotheses that are gaining strength in this new office of the future, among others because working remotely helps to reduce the density of staff and, consequently, allows physical distance, but after the improvisation forced by the COVID-19, it also becomes necessary to redefine the homeoffice spaces under the premise that they are ergonomic and efficient.
Enabling remote work gives the company access to a global pool of talent and at the same time reduces its ecological footprint, so it seems logical that homes also require a dedicated work space with an appropriate physical infrastructure, such as an ergonomic work chair, a height-adjustable desk, a desk lamp, WLAN, noise-canceling audio equipment, IT hardware and software. Ideally, these can be combined and organized according to specific business needs. With confinement, people have learned to make work visible and treat time differently.
And what about common spaces?
Those get-togethers with a coffee in hand or the rotation of the desk as they are not assigned and change every day, are characteristics that will have to be rethought. This does not mean in any case that we have to return to the partitions and cubicles, but we will have to reduce the shared use of objects and spaces in addition to continuing to encourage the already famous and effective social distancing.
This crisis has taught us that we can work from almost anywhere, so going to an office has become a conscious and deliberate decision. The office can and should look more formal than our homes but in a way that meets basic human needs, and to meet these needs new shapes, colors and materials will emerge.
It is up to us to make the office a safe and comfortable place, as if it were our own home.