What will our offices look like in the near and coming future ahead? That is the question many designers have been thinking about as they prepare for the inevitable: our gradual return to the work-place environment. The idea of not being able to shake hands or stand beside your fellow coworker in a meeting may seem surreal for those already preparing the return. However, this doesn’t mean everyone will be sent to their stations immediately, businesses from every industry have yet to rework office layouts in compliance with CDC safety guidelines on social distancing. Returning to work will take time as companies are implementing return-to-office strategies in several phases.
Having that said, interior designers and architects will have to reevaluate their floor plans on how and where to place employees in an office space. Because ultimately, this pandemic will change how people view working indoors, both in the near-term and long-term.
The Near-Term Effects of Coronavirus
Looking at the situation in the near-term; office life remains an integral part to the furniture industry. Collaboration and teamwork are the primary principles we value as designers to generate innovative ideas as a collective whole. By taking those principles into consideration, designers have been actively working to retrofit their spaces with the resources currently available to them. For example, a shared workstation might not be the ideal work area without implementing sneeze guards or tall free-standing divider panels. Here at dTank, Principal David Sanchez and Founder Reto Eberle have been working around the clock with Gecco Vision, a product development company to design an immediate solution called “Sneeze Shields,” a product that will protect those working on the front lines in every industry today.
The Long-Term Effects of Coronavirus
So how will the furniture industry cope with coronavirus in the long-term? Designers around the world will continue to create more protective solutions that strictly revolve around reducing the risk of getting infected. Solutions like wearing a mask and gloves might not be enough to “water-down” the sense of fear and caution people may have when returning to those long work hours in an indoor environment. Thus, the demand for more individual desks may rise in favor of shared worktables.
Even after social distancing is lifted, working from home could remain in effect until a vaccine has been made. According to Kelly Griffith, a principal at the architectural firm called NBBJ, “much of the heads-down-work will continue to happen at home and the physical workplace becomes a place to connect with others.” Could this mean that social office spaces like conference rooms and physical work-spaces will be utilized solely for special work-related events? Only time will tell.
Though, who is to say that coronavirus will be around three to five years from now? Businesses that have been hard at work, making COVID-19 protective gear like N95 respirators masks, divider panels etc. are continuing to stick to their respective markets. Economist and methodologist, Alan Beaulieu, PhD. of ITR Economics suggests that fear of the virus will possibly die down once a vaccine has been developed. Which can only mean that down the line, the daily use of coronavirus protective gear will slowly become obsolete.
The Road to Recovery
While there are still many details scientists have yet to discover about the coronavirus, it is important to remember that the world will eventually recover. Though we may never return to that sense of normalcy we once knew in the pre-pandemic world, society will adapt and move forward; and that applies to how we will work in an office environment.
Yet, knowing how much of a physical and mental toll this virus has had on employees across the globe, business shall continue to be understanding and show moral support during these unprecedented times as we continue working from home out of caution, because ultimately, safety comes first for everyone.