There’s no doubt that the way we engage and operate within public spaces has forever changed. As we return to work, businesses will also need to become more aware of personal space, safety and hygiene strategies to keep their workforce safe. Dulux Colour Expert, Palesa Ramaisa and Dessiner Interior Architectural owner, Stefan du Toit, share their views on what the future of our workplace could look like as we enter a new era of work as we know it.
Increasingly dispersed workforce
Relooking how to make smarter, more creative use of space will be on top of the priority list – as companies balance cost of rentals or real estate while adhering to responsible social distancing regulations. One such consideration will be limiting the amount of people within the space altogether. Research by Global Workplace Analytics forecasts that up to 30% of people will remain working from home several days a week even when the pandemic has passed. Communal points like washrooms and canteens will also be considerably altered.
“With workers being cautious to return to the office amidst the pandemic, we are seeing a shift in design trends with open office spaces and hot desking being replaced with a more contained and controlled working environment,” says du Toit.
Many analysts predict that even the way to construct and design these work spaces will change. Many see an increased focus on ventilation, wider corridors and doorways with more partitions between departments becoming the new norm.
“There is going to be a great deal of change within the workplace and employers will need to create clear instructions to guide workers on what is considered safe and responsible behaviour. To reduce stress and anxiety, office spaces may adopt cool and calming colours like soft shades of tranquil blue, and the balance and growth of green,” says Ramaisa.
Faster adoption of the Smart Office
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has noted, “we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”. This fast track into the digital transformation that we’ve been talking about for years, has finally been put into action. Thus, an increased awareness of social distancing will probably also fast track ‘smart office’ technology. This will not only streamline interaction but more importantly decrease frequent physical touchpoints like doors, elevators and shared office equipment like printers. As seen within the Smart Home environment we may likely also see a rise in voice-based interfaces and fibre and 5G gain momentum.
Innovation at the center of it all
“Design with purpose and innovation has become the norm and social distancing regulations will create new opportunities and restrictions to the design process,” adds du Toit. Examples of such innovations are smarter furniture options with built in spacing and the adoption of technology like Dulux’s Sterishield. It is a water-based hygienic paint, which actively inhibits bacteria, promoting a hygienic environment making it ideal for hospitals, clinics, care homes, food & catering services, offices, schools and high traffic areas.
“With the rise of the uber conscience consumer we also predict that eco-friendly offerings like the Dulux Trade Ecosure range with low VOC levels also rise to the fore as people become more aware of the impact to health and the planet,” explains Ramaisa.
Even in social settings outside of the workplace – places like restaurants and bars will adapt to restrictions for sit down clientele. These are clients that will be eager but nervous and unsure of how to interact in this new normal. New sources of revenue will have to be adapted to retain turnover per square metre. Adapting the space to allow for the sale of take out and home cooking items can create a “restaumart” that serves a broad segment of the dining market”, says du Toit.
More so, every space that can create a narrative will be even more important in design from colour, texture and overall experience. The narrative and sense of wellbeing portrayed will contribute significantly in easing anxiety in staff during these uncertain times and pave the way forward for this new era within the workplace and beyond.