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Sketchworks Architecture

Three Ways the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Change How Employees Work: Part II

In our second post in this series (read Part I here), we look at more ways workplaces will alter their physical spaces, cleaning practices and aesthetics.

Above: Post pandemic inspirational materials palette: Antimicrobial porcelain floor tile, antimicrobial LVT flooring, bleach cleanable upholstery fabrics, plastic laminate and quartz that are inherently anti-microbial, and vinyl wallcovering for scrubbable commercial wallcoverings. All curated in a brighter color palette that hints at nature for a relaxing environment.

Hygiene Expectations Will Rise

It’s hard now not to think about using hand sanitizer after every time you touch a doorknob or communal surface at work. Indeed, our cleanliness standards have gone up since the pandemic started (which may not be a bad thing). In the workplace, eating may only be allowed in designated spaces like a cafeteria or breakroom, and washing hands before and after entering a space will become a given. Workers (or janitorial staff) may be expected to clean workspaces daily.

Coming into work with a cold will likely not fly anymore: “People used to be awarded for ‘powering through’ and ‘never missing a day of work’ by working during their illness. Gone will be the days that anyone finds this honorable. Working from home has been proven possible, and out of concern for staff and clients alike, workers will be encouraged to stay home when sick,” says Michelle Schildgen, director of interior design and branding for Sketchworks Architecture.

Outfitting the work environment with materials and fabrics that are easily cleanable yet aesthetically pleasing, (or even anti-microbial in certain areas), cleaning communal spaces more frequently and ensuring the building’s HVAC system provides enough clean, well-filtered air “will be an important function throughout the pandemic,” says Schildgen.

Keeping the Office in Tip-Top Shape Will Be Important

New cleaning procedures and processes will be a crucial component of every business’s daily repertoire. “A clean, clutter-free and well-maintained office will feel more comforting when we come out of the pandemic. Offices that have dated finishes, carpeting that needs replacing or worn upholstery will feel that much more unsanitary after the pandemic,” says Schildgen, “Many workers coming out of the pandemic are going to feel cautious.”

Now is a great time to do a clean sweep (pun intended) of the office by getting rid of old furnishings, technology and files, and unused items. “Clutter tends to add an extra level of uncleanliness,” adds Schildgen.

Physical barriers between desks will become important again not only for acoustics and visual separation, but for safety and health: “portable versions are available or can be retrofitted to tables to improve the ‘sneeze guard’ for safe distancing and separation between stations,” says Schildgen. “Consider how these separations may be utilized post-pandemic as well. Protect the investment you have already made while adding safety measures that can adapt as the pandemic passes and we are able to go back to our normal work environments,” says Schildgen. “Partitions that are marker boards can be utilized for collaboration spaces or acoustical panels can be used for creating a quiet seating nook.”

The Design Details in Offices Will Matter

Schildgen says the invigorating powers of nature and wellness-inspired components will also continue to ramp up in workspaces, as well as encouraging a relaxing, healing vibe. Soothing color palettes; access to daylight, outside views and even fresh air; positive imagery and artwork throughout the office; and natural elements will come into play. Also coming out of the pandemic, people will want a space to look and feel clean—even possibly looking to lighter, brighter color palettes and hard surfaces that can be easily cleaned.

“Having a space that’s supportive of employees who have been through added stress, anxiety or life-changing events from the pandemic [will be important]. That restorative element is going to be huge—like plants, water features and natural lighting,” says Schildgen.

The notion of “retreat” (even while at work!) is also something employers may want to keep top of mind by providing options for privacy or quiet time like a wellness room, or “a quiet, well-lit seating nook near the window,” says Schildgen.