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Lockdown, what happens to the workplace when it ends?

Space MD, Tim Wadsworth shares his views on what the physical workplace might look like post COVID-19.

 

Tim Wadsworth, Managing Director, Space 

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Our client Space are workplace transformation experts who help clients optimise performance through innovative and well-planned design, they also founded the Space Awards – a celebration to showcase the most inspiring and interesting workspaces in the city of Exeter and surrounding areas.

Last week we held a virtual discussion with Space MD, Tim Wadsworth to hear his views on what the physical workplace might look like post Covid-19. Tim raised several considerations which we should probably be thinking about and planning for during this period of lockdown, they certainly made us evaluate our own future set up.

We’d like to share his views with you so you too can look to kick start your own thoughts on office space, overall team wellbeing and what your “new normal” way of working might look like when we do get back to the office.

What we do know

Our Government is keeping its cards close to their chest about when Lockdown will end. At the time of writing this, it has been extended to 7th May 2020. If the UK follows other countries, there is likely to be a phased return to work.

What, how or when it happens is unknown. What we do know is that the virus will still be with us for some time to come. Therefore, companies should have a considered plan for getting back to the physical workplace which sits alongside and complements all business functions.

My name is Tim Wadsworth, Managing Director of Space, I have been engaged in office interiors and fit outs since 1998. Over the last few weeks, I have had plenty of time to research and reflect on what company leaders may need to consider before they return to the workplace. I believe there are seven issues that could form part of your COVID-19 return-to-work plan and I’d like to share these with you.

Tim Wadsworth
Cushman Wakefield

1. Anxious workforce. Government and professional medical advisors have been telling us that we must practise social distancing and keep 2m apart. There is also endless speculation on social media. It’s only natural that some staff will be nervous or scared to come back to work.

How will that work if you have a desk that is 1.6m wide (or smaller)? Some more vulnerable people going back to work may be reassured if their employer provided bookable safe spaces in the office. Some companies are redesigning their offices to provide social distancing. This could be a simple change in floor coverings, as illustrated by a professional services company in China.

Image Credit: Cushman Wakefield

2. Compromising creativity. As business leaders, we have all now seen that Working from Home is doable and can be effective. Could this continue to a greater extent than prior to the virus? It creates less pressure on desk space so potentially, smaller offices are needed, which reduces the overhead. However, could a reduction in face-to-face communication compromise creativity, collaboration and ultimately, the end result? I think that there is a limit to what can be achieved via Zoom (and others).

3. Around the clock operations. Could companies adopt flexible opening hours/shifts moving forward? I can concede that now may be the time to have a grown-up conversation about flexible working or even the ‘4-day week’.

4. Third-party guests. What do we do about visitors? There will need to be strict rules around how they are looked after when they visit your premises.

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Office Hygiene

5. Daylong hygiene of the workspace. It’s not just about hand sanitisers or washing rituals on arrival. What about hot desks that have shared space and everything you need to do your job? Does this mean more laptops or more cleaning? One company I know has introduced disposable paper mats to place on a desk each morning to minimise contact to work surfaces.

6. Keeping your house in order. I had forgotten until someone pointed it out the other day that cleaners travel from client to client to carry out their work – what will be the new protocols?

7. Staying cool. Most air conditioning systems in the West Country do not treat the air but simply heat and cool. There is no evidence (yet) to support the fact the virus could be transmitted via air conditioning, but I know I wouldn’t want to sit underneath an air-con vent. So extra precautions may be needed here and what would that look like?

For certain, there will be months of disruption in the workplace and it’s probably not going to go back to this for some time, if ever.

Whatever happens, you need a plan and if Space can help, I’m happy to share more of our knowledge and research. If you have any questions, thoughts or observations please contact me, tim@inspiringworkspaces.co.uk  I’d like to hear from you, or to find out more about what we do please visit inspiringworkspaces.co.uk.

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