Redesigning workspaces for a post-Covid-19 world
Countries that have suffered the most severe outbreaks of Covid-19 are seeing infection rates level off as lockdowns and widespread restrictions on movement take effect. Experts around the world are now looking at what measures need to be in place to allow industry to safely restart over the coming months.
One area that will come under particular scrutiny is the office workplace where social distancing measures are often difficult to maintain, and workers are often in close proximity to each other – for instance in lifts, passing through corridors or at co-working desks.
After emerging from self-isolation, employees will be hyper alert about hygiene and density issues, and, although most countries in Africa have (to date) avoided the need for a complete lockdown, workers will expect global standard safety measures to be in place when they return to the office.
Greater health, safety measures
Globally, flexible and serviced office providers, like Kofisi, have seen the damage Covid-19 wreaked on the industry in the US and Europe. Demand for commercial space there plummeted, and office providers took a hit because clients had to work from home. Now people will soon be allowed back, there are calls for increased health and safety measures – above and beyond providing hand sanitisers and deep cleaning - to reduce the transmission of viruses in the workplace.
Most office providers implemented WHO guidelines at the start of the pandemic, but we believe workers will want to go further to ensure their personal safety by combining private offices or enclosed work zones with larger desks in shared working areas where there’s more control over who they interact with.
Smaller private offices preferable
Speaking on a virtual panel on Instagram, the CEO of Industrious, Jamie Hodari, believes the co-working part of his business will probably diminish because of a perceived risk of infection. He argues that 30 private offices, housing one to four people would be preferable to a giant open floor plan for 120 people.
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Other safety measures suggested by the industry include:
But improvements to office facilities and having fewer people in the office comes at a cost to landlords, office providers and end users. Not easy to stomach given the current economic climate.
Office space still needed
We firmly believe that despite current challenges, businesses will still need office space in the future.
To meet clients and to affirm or share ideas requires a formal work environment. Technology has made home working easier and remote meetings possible, but like home schooling, you miss out on all the benefits a specialised environment provides.
At home, small children, pets and unfinished chores make it difficult to be wholly productive. Add that to unreliable power and poor internet service and it can be frustrating getting things done. An office solves this, delivering a stable and reliable work environment, every day.
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Blended way of working
The pandemic will bring about an acceptance for a more blended way of working, allowing clients to work from home a couple of days a week, whilst also having access to office facilities.
Equally, a flexible office licence is more appealing financially during uncertain times because they allow for agility. Businesses aren’t tied to traditional long-term leases with additional operating costs in an unreliable economy.
Things have been tough, but we see this as an opportunity for innovation. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt as flexible workspace providers, it’s that constant innovation and being agile is what our customers need.
About the author
Michael Aldridge, CEO of Kofisi Africa