As stay-at-home orders phase out and employees return to work, one of the next big challenges will be keeping the workplace safe while being functional. Companies with open concept offices may find them out of step with the new social distancing guidelines. This style of workspace surely will need to be paused or retrofitted until we get a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19.
It may be tough to convince workers to leave the comfort and isolation of their home offices until they can be assured they will be safe within their office space. While collaboration over video chats has exceeded my expectations, my team still works better in person. I’m looking forward to a brainstorm when we are all back together—that is if we can do it without increasing our risk.
There is little doubt office landscapes will change to safeguard their users. "The conversation about how to reconfigure the American workplace is taking place throughout the business world, from small start-ups to giant Wall Street firms," according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Privacy (aka offices with doors) may be the new mantra in office design. In the meantime, there are many solutions that can improve safety in the office environment and support productivity.
At InStore Design Display (IDD), we've reconfigured our entrance and exit procedures to include hand washing at three new sink stations in our warehouse. Where it's difficult to maintain a six-foot distance in our desk areas, we have installed personal protection barriers developed by our design team to extend the height of our low cubicles. They are made of clear acrylic, which means they can be disinfected each night and not fully sacrifice the open feel of our office. Clear face shields and/or cloth face masks are also available when team members must work in close proximity on our manufacturing floor and warehouse.
Twenty years ago, in the early days of my career, I was both a project manager and workplace consultant in the dynamic office furniture world with one of the largest Midwest suppliers. Cubicles and ancillary were my specialty. I thought I had left that industry behind when I moved on to merchandising and then displays. But with the pivot to personal protection equipment at IDD, I'm having a full-circle career moment. And I love it!
Bending and molding clear acrylic is one of IDD's core competencies—something we do best. While our business of designing and building retail displays cycles through the recovery, it's been an honor for our team to shift to products that keep people safe. We are here to help businesses reimagine their workplace in this new normal.