“For office culture to revive and survive, office spaces are looking at a pretty drastic alteration of layouts and design,” says Pankaj Poddar, the co-founder of Hipcouch, a Mumbai based Interior Design Company. He says the new normal will also see some reversal.“We will see the reversing of very hot trends of open offices and shared desks.” While we wait for the official decrees, here’s what the rough framework is looking like so far according to Poddar.
Work From Home
For now, private offices have been advised to open with only between 33-55% strength in most states in India. Besides what we hope will also mean a reduced commute to work thanks to less traffic, this also allows for social distancing at the office.
Social Distance At Work
Since offices will not be at maximum capacity, there is scope to ensure enough physical distance between two desks by simply skipping one in the middle. At the very least, or in addition, fitting a screen around each desk is also a good way to achieve this. Hot desking is now a no-go.
The way 2020 is going, it’s hard to predict anything this year with any accuracy, so we have no idea what monsoon will bring, but opening as many windows as you possibly can will increase ventilation and we suspect that a lot of offices will consider the option. Too hot? Your office may need to get a humidifier system in place to create a tougher climate for viruses.
Meetings should be conducted in open spaces as far as possible instead of the traditional closed conference room setting. And maybe the joke about how “this meeting could have been an email” can stop being funny and actually be something to think about.
Equip the entrance/lobby, dining areas, bathrooms and other public spaces within the office with sanitiser dispensers, disposable gloves and a no-touch thermometer. Add a screen to protect the reception staff and insist on extra cleaning of all spaces, especially bathrooms.
This one is a more elaborate solution than the others, but according to reports, offices in the UK are looking at replacing communal toilets with individual pods and introducing touchless doors, taps and soap dispensers.
A strict limit on how many people can crowd into a lift at one time may save you some of that awkward elevator silence, but it also means a longer wait every time you want to move from one floor to another. A good time to reassess your relationship with the staircase (your step counter will be a thing of pride at the end of each day!)
End Of Common Cutlery
Yes, this may come to an end as well. Be prepared to carry your own water bottles, coffee mugs and cutlery to the office. A common pool of all these items is just a bad idea.
Less Business Travel
Whether this is good news to you or exactly the opposite, travelling for business will see a drastic drop, replaced instead by Zoom calls. Travelling anywhere is probably unwise for at least the next several months anyway, even as domestic flights are slowly opening up. Also, obviously don’t count on any outstation off-sites anytime soon.
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to go back to showering and wearing pants again. No more meetings in just your shirt for the video and boxers underneath! It may still be a relaxed vibe, but it is still your workplace.