Covid-19 – Facts, conclusions and a look at the near future in Office Building Design
The realities of today are in many ways determining what the future will be. Many of today’s norms will in one form or another be with us forever. But how different and how will this “new normal” affect the use of operable walls in the various vertical markets? Gensler Architects has completed some extensive and detailed research on these market groups and deserve an enormous amount of credit for their efforts. I am quoting their conclusions and percentages in this article on office buildings. Based on their publications I have made some assumptions about how operable walls will be affected and will their use increase or decrease and what changes to product design and features will result.
- There is no place like work! The workplace matters. People want to return to work even though working from home is proving to be efficient resulting in increased decision-making and innovation.
- 74% of those working remotely miss people. 54% say they miss scheduled meetings with colleagues the most. 40% say they focus more when at work..
- Not all work can be accomplished in a home office. People in general want to work in an office environment or are seeking a balance between home and office. Some days in and some days at home.
- 44% say they miss prompt access to technology that is only available at work. 51% say staying up to date is more difficult at home.
- People require socializing, collaboration, sharing of ideas and work experiences. Want structured meetings, impromptu face to face interactions in hallways or cafeterias etc.
- 54% say they miss socializing with colleagues. 54% say they miss impromptu meetings. 40% say they miss scheduled meetings with clients
- Fundamental changes in the way we work and in workplace design & tools will occur. Minimal touching of surfaces and social distancing may become the rule rather than the exception.
- Workers will expect changes to the workplace before they are comfortable returning.
- Workers will want to feel safe, healthy and valued (protected?) while being productive and efficient.
- When working from home, workers have developed new skills in how to work virtually, new ways to connect with colleagues, clients etc.
- Distancing is with us for the foreseeable future: at least 2 years or until a proven vaccine is introduced and 19 is no longer a health threat. And even then distancing will be with us for a long time.
- Strengthening relationships with colleagues will become more important than ever. Support.
A look at the near future
- Workers in an existing open office layout will be spaced 6’ apart minimum (use of every other desk?). Workers never facing each other. Physical partial height see through barriers?
- Partitioning off of work stations. Unassigned work stations. Regular disinfecting. Cleaning protocols ramped up. Partial height office cubicles are not the preferred solution.
- More use of perimeter full height glass partitions especially in existing buildings. Glass will be used extensively in fixed and in operable (acoustic) walls. Provides separation but also allows visual contact.
- Assigning some people to work from home 2 days a week and in the office 3 days. Staggered shifts of in and out.
- No more than 10 chairs in conference rooms spaced appropriately..
- Collaborate virtually wherever possible.
- Good hygiene. Minimal touching of office components. Products designed to be sanitized. Use of surfaces that do not encourage adherence of bacteria.
- Empowering workers to work responsibly and have a greater sense of control and involvement in their work environment.
So how does all of this affect Moderco and the design community?
- Far from there being less opportunities for operable partitions there will be more. The office as a viable workplace will return bigger than ever because that is what workers want. People rule.
- The need for additional spacing in meeting rooms will require larger meeting rooms but also the continued need for smaller spaces. Both scenarios require more flexibility and more operable walls. Larger areas devoted to meetings with more division required.
- There will always be the need for acoustical separation in an office area and partial height walls and social distancing will not provide it. There are articles on the Moderco web site that address the use of operable partitions in an open office environment.
- An increased use of electric partitions rather than manual single or paired. No touching: just push a button or turn a switch.
- When manual operable walls are used, a safe easily disinfectable surface area such as the protective edge trim on Signature where you can grip the panel is an absolutely perfect solution.
- The increased use of anti-bacterial wall coverings.
- The use automatic seals rather than manually operated seals to minimize hand contact.
- Clean minimum personal contact robotic manufacturing methods that Moderco employs with Excel (700).
- Full height glass partition systems..
We feel very confident about the future of Moderco and the operable wall industry in general especially in office buildings. Operable walls will continue to be a significant part of office building design and provide the distancing, hygiene and acoustic solutions that the new future requires. Please contact Moderco at 1 800 363 3150 for design assistance. Thank you and please stay safe.