Surely, the perks of working from home are many: no time on commuting, no stress on code-dressing, not to speak about the beauty of comfortably lying on the sofa for 8 hours on end. Why bother coming back to work? In the end, productivity is what matters.
Yet, some people kept working all through lockdown, despite the very restricting measures and the uncertainty of these being effective or not. Construction workers, supermarket employees, healthcare staff and so on never stopped, even when the entire world did. However, they cannot be the only ones forever, and they are not going to be.
Coming back to work will soon become mandatory, though perhaps not for everyone. The question is, how? How will employers make sure all measures are incremented according to government’s guidelines? And how will employees be able to feel 100% safe, as if nothing really happened?
This is indeed a very sensitive topic of debate that generates controversies and is likely to change by the second.
The workplace is undoubtedly one of the places where bacteria proliferate at their utmost. Something extremely important to consider about the spread of infection is the speed at which bacteria can multiply and contaminate.
FACT: there are at least around 800 bacteria being born every hour, which turn into 1600 after 20 minutes, and 32000 other 20 minutes later. On the basis of this, we can assume they double more or less every 20 minutes, which leads to infections and airborne viruses to be spread very quickly.
Let’s take the example of an office: research suggests that the typical workplace desk is home to more than 10 million bacteria, that’s 100x more germs than kitchen tables & 400x less sanitary than the average toilet seat. Crazy, right? What if I also told you that a further study found that 25% of office workers admit to not washing their hands after using the toilet? That complicates the matter quite a lot. No matter how spacious or small an office is, bacteria will always travel at tremendously high speeds and will therefore be one of the main reasons (if not the main one) to increment measures.
Workplace expert Yuki Kanamori believes that the future of office layout lies in avoiding the 3Cs: Closed spaces, Crowded spaces and Close contact, and offices are following. According to the French Labour Code (Article R4421-1 et seq), there are three things that employers can do to safeguard the health of their employees. They can adopt the so-called ‘dilution’ measures, such as installing ventilators and/or aeration strategies to facilitate air coming in and cleaning up the environment from bacteria. They can also then adopt some organisational measures, meaning re-thinking the usual way of delivering parcels or visits by external clients. For instance, visitors may be allocated to specific time slots and dispatch personnel may be welcomed in a special area where temperature checks will be conducted as well as providing hand sanitizers and PPE.
PPE will be indeed the core of the new office design: experts suggest that many employers will require their employees to wear a mask at all times, as well as arranging a set of disposable gloves at the entrance. Face shields, hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes will also be strongly recommended. In short, hygiene will become the priority and offices will start looking more like hospitals, displacing colourful indicators and banners on both floor and walls to trace the path employees need to take. Indeed, employees will be encouraged to walk clockwise, creating one-way flow to minimize transmission, as adopted by several hospitals during the covid-19 outbreak.
Spaces will no longer look the same: they will be re-designed to ensure social distancing of at least 6 ft (2 metres), with the addition of the so-called “sneeze-guards”, hence partitions fitted between socially distanced desks. This model came to be known under the name of “six feet office” and is likely to become one of the norms. However, when the physical distancing will not be possible, conferences will still be virtual and meeting rooms’ capacity will be re-adapted.
And of course, because technology is always on the edge of evolution, why not taking it to the next level as a further mechanism of prevention? Offices will do whatever it is in their power to make everything contactless. Doors will open automatically using motion sensors and facial recognition, and lifts will be called from the Smartphone through a simple click. Washrooms will be installed with hands-free door handles or foot door openers, and automatic soap dispensers and taps. Last, but surely not least, a tribute to the coffee lovers: the coffee machine as we know it will disappear and will be connected to an app that will allow us to make our selection. Cool stuff, huh? I was also one of you thinking technology was already at its best, and yet it seems there is no end to improvement.
The covid-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the lives of everyone and has placed the world into a dimension we were yet to discover. Quarantine was hard, and self-isolation perhaps harder. The feeling of being denied of fundamental rights, of having to give up on businesses we took years to shape, of seeing the world crumbling under the weight of something nobody can’t still get a grasp on. These consequences will echo for a long time and the sooner we adapt to them, the sooner we can start moving forward again.
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