The new look office space as we start to move past COVID-19

by | May 14, 2020

As we begin the move to some sense of normalcy, everyone will still need to be cautious until the COVID-19 crisis is in the world’s rear-view mirror. For months offices have remained a relative ghost town while organizations leverage technology to continue with work.

Soon leadership will need to make decisions on what to do with the current space they have as it becomes possible for people to come back in. For the time being, cubicles crammed into as much floor space is gone. Even though a general cubicle space is 6’X6’ people are in closer proximity to each other. Then there are the meeting rooms, war rooms, and agile teams the Obeya rooms. These rooms would have a lot of traffic going in and out. Depending on the situation, there could be a “standing room” only. Until we are at a point that social distance is out of the vernacular, there needs to be a change.

Is there a need to reorganize the office? Spend money on new layouts, new desks or removing them? What about the meeting rooms? Will they become storage rooms? For some organizations, it is an opportunity to make changes that they have been pondering for some time now. The case study of remote working was thrust upon the world and showing benefits.

As those benefits are great it there are some disadvantages as well. There have been studies over time, and recently that shows a fair amount of people have increased stress when working remotely. Although there are plenty of sites and tips to help, for some, it could only go so far.

Humans are hardwired to be social. In the office, a quick “how’s it going?” chat can do so much. Yes, that could be done over Skype or through the telephone. It is more about seeing the individual in front of you that does something to generate that conversation spontaneously. Sometimes doing work consumes time and energy were opening up the app to start the call doesn’t come to mind. There are also group lunches. Where people decide to go out one day just to get out of the office, it is something that is not the same when doing it over a webcam.

So what to do in an office where there was no back burner plans to redesign, or there is no budget to do so?

For the desks and cubicles, the easy thing there is to have teams work out a schedule of who comes in when. Ensure there are disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer around for everyone to use. There will be no need to remind people to keep some distance between them; I think that is a common point now.

For meeting rooms and such, there needs to be some investment. There are web conferencing cameras and rooms where people can move the camera remotely. In an Obeya room, this would be great as they will still be able to work together as a team, with the only issue is that remote employees will need help from those in the office to add any information.

The great thing with humans is our ability to adapt, and this is no different.

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