As the ease of lockdown restrictions permit the gradual reopening of the economy, companies look towards redesigning their workplace to mitigate the further spread of the virus, and prioritize the health and safety of their employees.
Trends And Concepts (TAC) Principal Designer and VP of Design & Construction Management IDr. Charisse Gail Bantiling recently tackled how companies can strategically design their office for the return of the workforce in the current and post COVID-19 landscape.
“Given that we spend 90% of our day in the workplace, we want to understand what a healthier environment means and what human-centric designs do to benefit your business,” said Bantiling.
Elevating employee well-being
In her study entitled “A COVID-19 Virtual Ideation Experience”, Bantilingshared how she and her team conceptualized design strategies for the future of the workplace and solutions to elevate employee-wellbeing.
Bantiling is part of Team 16 addressing the area of Workplace Wellbeing. Team 16 is led by Sujatha Ganapathy, Vice President of Knight Frank India. Members of Team 16, including Gail, are Ashwini Kuvalekar, Architect- Sustainable Solutions, Space Matrix Design Consultants Pvt Ltd, India; Norberto.Figueroa, Associate Director, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Philippines, Inc.; and SandhyaHegde, Lead- Sustainable Solutions, Space Matrix Design Consultants PvtLtd,India.
The report by Team 16dentified the risks found within enclosed settings, such as the workplace, that individuals are more likely to be exposed to and may impact their overall wellbeing. The risks are mainly environmental, occupational, and behavioral.
“We’re still acknowledging the fact that the physical workplace is something necessary to keep and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. It is a place after all where we do our business agenda or social gatherings in general,” Bantilingsaid.
The initial steps in reconfiguring the workplace are by creating a one-way entrance and exit system to enforce the physical distancing rule. Afterward, identify which areas have high and low traffic zones in order to optimize areas that need adjustment for capacity as well as finding which ones can be converted to an additional workspace or temporary rooms.
De-densify the workplace
De-densify the workplace to accommodate physical distancing can be achieved by using the high and low traffic zones guideline which indicates the tables that are to be occupied and determines the capacity per wing. Ideally, you want to take out equipment and seats on the unoccupied spaces, otherwise, you can make use of markers as dividers and sneeze guards between workstations for protection.
Similarly, workplace mapping can help ensure dedicated seats, personal accountability, and clear workable rules of conduct per user through alternate seating arrangements with a minimum of 1.5-meter physical distancing.
Finally, Bantilingemphasized employeewell-being, “As stakeholders, we have to consider the users - not only are we looking at the workplace in the lens of hygiene and sanitation,” she said. “We should try welcoming the idea of creating a space of quality, bringing emphasis to empathy and support, bringing in a lot of that data-driven design approach using intelligent and technology-based solutions.”