It’s time to start planning for life post-pandemic, all while making choices carefully and responsibly.

As we navigate this new world, new normal, and new mindset, we are all asking, ‘What’s Next?’

 Returning to the workplace will be like reopening the economy. It will happen in waves and it will be stressful for both organizations and workers. It’s impossible to predict what may happen next. But if you’re like me, it feels better to have a plan and that’s exactly what we’re doing at Business Furniture + Choreo. Like many companies we were forced to hunker down all while keeping business going. We’ve learned to use video conferencing and to have meetings from the comfort (or not so comfort) of our homes- barking dogs included.

It’s time to start planning for life post-pandemic, all while making choices carefully and responsibly. Employee safety and wellbeing must be paramount- our people need to be safe and feel safe.

Now let’s talk space, it’s what we do and it’s top of mind for many companies returning to work. We are looking at the changes happening to our space in three time waves, the now, the near and the far.

Now

This will be the first portion of the workforce continuing to work from home. Planning for now also means retrofitting the workplace, based on a common-sense approach that adheres to governmental and global health guidelines, including physical distancing, adding barriers, cleaning and safety measures.

Near

At this stage, organizations may be ready to bring back most of all of their workforce. Building on what we learn from our experiences and science, organizations can begin reconfiguring the workplace. This will involve new ways to lay out space and change work settings to offer longer-term solutions for enhanced safety.

 Far

Work environments in the future will require reinvention as science-based evidence and emerging technologies offer new solutions. Planning will need to be based on the ability to adapt easily to possible economic, climate and health disruptions. The reinvented office must be designed with an even deeper commitment to the wellbeing of people.

There’s a lot to learn and many unknowns but the key principles for these first two stages will focus on:

  • Density of the workplace and its population
  • Geometry of the furniture arrangements
  • Division using screens, panels or other barriers

A few ways to start thinking about the “now”.

Reduce Density

Encourage physical distancing, consider removing chairs and spreading workspaces so people are at least 6 feet apart.

Change Geometry

Arrange and re-orient workstations away for a standard linear approach. Reconfigure to reduce sitting face-to-face without a barrier, rotate desks 90-degrees to face in different directions.

Smaller Meetings

Establish protocols for the number of people who can occupy an enclosed space. Post that information so it is commonly understood.

Clean Frequently and Visibly

Make cleaning highly visible so employees are assured that spaces are being cleaned multiple times a day. Make cleaning wipes and sanitizer accessible to everyone, everywhere and ask employees to clean before and after use of shared spaces.

Right now, there’s an urgency to not simply return to where we were but to be resilient, move forward and thrive.  One thing is certain, we will design and plan spaces differently in the future. Going forward, organizations will want to create a diverse range of spaces that are highly adaptable to allow them to navigate what’s next. By making plans in phases, implementing new protocols and keeping people’s well-being top of mind, I know we can do this.

Plan and prepare and then, let’s get back to work.

-Mary Beth Oakes, CEO Business Furniture + Choreo