Employers are now transforming the workplace into a more productive and collaborative environment, supporting the social nature of work that employees have yearned for
Employees are keen to return to the workplace as they have been fatigued by the WFH mandate and working in isolation from the last few months. It’s certainly welcome news for them that organisations are gradually resuming on-site operations in a phased manner, beginning with 30%-50% of the workforce. However, with offices mandated to follow hygiene protocols and other preventive measures, businesses are spurred to devise new systems to ensure that safety guidelines are followed and employees are protected.
As companies reconfigure their offices for the post-COVID age, some are taking the opportunities to also transform the workplace into a more productive and collaborative environment, supporting the social nature of work that employees have yearned for. Below are some of the measures that organizations can adopt to ensure that creativity and collaboration is not compromised whilst ensuring adherence to social distancing norms and also managing employees expectations.
Quick fixes like ottomans or stools, being mobile, can be moved from one place to another, thus allowing more people to join / reconfigure a meeting while maintaining physical distancing. Moving desks further apart from one another also helps in reducing density. One could also look at sequential seating and define one-way circulation pattern for safer ingress / egress.
Decluttering and removing the unwanted accessories also works to the benefit. Try to remove the extra furniture that leaves more space between co-workers. Adding protective screens/barriers between employees prevents close face-to-face interactions and limits them from any kind of exposure. These types of measures thus enable the users to adapt to the new norm.
Another interesting option is to create more outdoor workspaces where employees can collaborate easily while ensuring compliances to social distancing norms. Outdoor spaces create a sense of community among people who have been working from home for long. In these comfortable outdoor spaces, employees can connect better with nature that helps in reducing the mental anxiety and fatigue.
Long, linear outdoor tables support in-person interactions and create a positive social experience. Bringing mobile whiteboards outside for a while enables successful collaboration, facilitating large team meetings or brainstorming sessions outdoors – a change from the usual conversations or solo work.
In order to provide a variety of ergonomic work settings that allow employees to toggle between work modes and postures, personal workstations can also be setup outside.
Signage and posters across locations within the premises remind employees to stay physically distanced. Bold and striking visuals help employees to avoid bumping into
each other and eliminate close encounters in offices. Digital signages for meeting rooms work very efficiently as it clearly displays the occupancy status and restricts people to hover outside the room unnecessarily.
More and more organizations are now understanding the importance of touchless technology. In order to attain collaboration and productivity, the role of technology becomes very important. Innovations such as the Touchless Room Reservation System that shows if a conference room is occupied or not without having to physically check availability – offers touchless experience. Another interesting technology is that of a RoomWizard which further reinforces health-&-safety at work. It offers a unique system with digital signage equipped with a bold interface that makes critical meeting information easy-to-read at a distance, minimising unwanted close encounters as users find their booked locations.
As workspaces continue to reinvent, solutions will be integrated with the emerging technology to ensure employee safety. Offices will regain their value as employees work effectively together and foster innovations. For that, companies must assure employees a safe environment that supports their physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing and, even more than that, one that fulfils their innate need for connection and engagement.
The author is Praveen Rawal, Steelcase Asia Pacific, MD India SAARC, Design Application - APAC
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