When would you want to go to Disneyland?
A great question given our circumstances… and recently asked in a responsible, socially distant conversation with an investment manager friend. Not that we planned to go to Disneyland as a bizarre business jolly, it is however an excellent metaphor for the situation we are in and the way we climb back out of it, all the way up the predicted bounce back of the UK economy.
Contemplate the metaphor; Disneyland is either Paris or Florida, so one must fly... Disneyland is very busy, crowded and concentrated with queues and cramped seats on roller-coaster rides. We may use taxi’s and public transport, visit restaurants and sample the local bars during our travels.
It therefore involves doing everything the UK government are advising against right now. So, enter the scenario of going back to ‘normality’. Would you want to go to Disneyland? What measures could Disneyland put in place that would reassure your health concerns? Bustling crowds, packed buses, and queues for the public toilets…!! Even after the lockdown has lifted and we are free to roam, will we have the confidence to do so?
Returning to the workplace may provoke the same issues.
We are all missing social interaction in the workplace; the chance encounter with a colleague in the breakout space. Perhaps ad-hoc chats over a coffee; office banter; collaborative meetings that have a natural progressive buzz that stimulates the feeling of progress, purpose and belonging, some of the top fundamental needs of humans identified in Maslows hierarchy of needs. However, we need to discuss how returning to normal will look and feel like. Post lockdown restrictions, will our approach be more cautious? Will we want to stand under another person’s armpit to get to work on the tube?
Maslows hierarchy of needs, courtesy of https://www.explorepsychology.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/. Gallup, courtesy of HMInsights 2020
Recent suggestions of easing ourselves back to our places of work could involve staggered working hours to reduce the loading on public transport during the traditional ‘rush hours’. After this global working from home (WFH) experiment, a lot of organisations have found it suits their business model and it is working rather well, and could maintain a two or three day a week WFH culture post-Covid. Indeed, a recent study by Gallup indicates that for increased productivity the optimum work pattern involves a one or two day-a-week remote working model, which could encourage the cynical to make the jump after Covid-19.
So how can we translate this research, information, data, government guidelines, best practices and a sprinkling of common sense into our places of work to enable us to occupy our personal Disneyland’s once more?
At RAW, we've been using our time wisely; learning and researching through the lockdown to help our clients with future space planning. We’ve been modelling floor plans and applying the current UK government guidelines, along with some practical modifications to the existing space. The result of which enables a percentage of the workforce to return to the workplace, albeit a reduced occupancy loading; these will vary depending on organisational requirements.
In the process of formulating the structure for a 'Return To Work' Strategy
This space planning exercise has identified unresolved pinch points and footfall traffic flow issues in virtually every office, with an alarmingly high numbers of contact points (where someone would interact with the building) throughout an office space, disobeying the two meter rule.
Based on our space planning calculations, and assuming most organisations will implement a WFH work pattern, we have forecast a potential 25-50% space occupation decrease, this varies greatly depending on shape of the floor space. This is still inclusive of allowing a two meter social distancing guidelines for personnel required to be in the office. The financial savings on this much real estate is a significant consideration.
RAW space planning; Phil Spencer Head of Design
We can foresee three possible options going forward, two of which can be rapidly deployed to enable workspace occupation. These suggested options assume adherence to UK government guidelines, apply best practice (i.e personal hygiene) and common sense (i.e stay at home if you are ill!).
1. Short term:
Rapid deployment for immediate return to work; remove a select percentage of furniture such as task chairs and other seating to discourage sitting in close proximity, to maintain the two meter rule. This is a quick solution without adjusting any existing floor plans, with temporary storage of furniture off site. This could result in an approximate 30-50% occupancy loading depending on layout, meaning a two or three day-a-week WFH policy is adopted for the short term.
2. Mid term:
Temporary engineering solutions to existing floor plan; addition of screens and/or barriers to allow a potentially higher percentage occupancy load in the office space. Minor adjustment to furniture positioning in the space to provide better traffic flow, barriers, isolation points and safe zones, thus satisfying the two meter rule. Possibly a two day-a-week WFH model, with an approximate 40-60% occupancy load, depending on existing floor plans.
3. Long term:
Re-design of the office from a social distancing perspective, using integrated design functions to encourage and guide employees within the space. This may reveal significant space savings. Items for consideration:
- Wayfinding/ signage
- Naturally anti-microbial/ bacterial materials utilised
- Identifying and mitigating 'contact points' in the space/ building
- Using physical barriers to zone areas within the workspace
- One-way system for foot-traffic through the office/ demise areas
- Revise the air conditioning /HVAC systems to improve air quality where possible
- Contactless access controls/ doors/ coffee/ toilets etc
- Cultural change
- Sanitisation stations throughout office
All options will not completely mitigate any health risks relating to Covid-19, therefore residual health risks will remain in the workplace. These options also result in a decreased occupancy load for the foreseeable, possibly forcing us all to adopt a partial WFH culture for a likely minimum of two days a week, for an unknown duration!
However, all three options will contribute towards helping an organisation achieve Covid-19 government guideline compliance, with the short term and mid term solutions we have suggested being a rapidly deployable and economic method to have your staff repopulate the office.
A structured RTW strategy is critical to an organisation repopulating their offices with confidence
As we await a vaccination with bated breath, we need to design our lives around the current issues that face us and accept it is now a fact of life. We have all shown how we collaborate nationally and globally to adapt and overcome situations in the past two months, we must continue, and ease us gently back to regaining a sense of everyday we all miss.
Undoubtedly this will have stimulated many questions, and we are on hand to give consultative advice. Please get in touch.
- Return to work strategy
- Space planning & Occupancy analysis
- Workplace consultancy
- Fit-out & Interiors
*Caveat* We are only suggesting options and generating ideas on future workplace solutions and designs to cope with Covid-19, using the latest official guidelines and research. We are not health professionals.