After COVID-19, Returning Workers Could See Big Office Changes

By: Greg Beaubien
May. 1, 2020
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Once the coronavirus pandemic passes and people come back to work, they might not recognize their offices. 

As The New York Times reports, company leaders, property managers and workplace designers are planning extensive changes. Returning workers will likely see continued social distancing, more office cleaning, hand-sanitizer stands in lobbies and stricter limits on numbers of passengers allowed in elevators. To avoid touching handles or pressing buttons, new technology might let people open doors by waving their hands. 

Some companies will phase in employees to limit the number on the premises, making it easier for workers to spread out. Others might alternate groups of employees at the office. “There could be A teams and B teams working different days,” said Scott Rechler, chief executive and chairman of RXR Realty.

Over the past decade, as companies have replaced separate offices with open floor plans, the amount of space per worker has shrunk by 25 percent, said Janet Pogue McLaurin, a principal at Gensler, an architectural design firm. “Benching” — lining desks up side by side — has squeezed workers even closer together.

To create 6-foot social distances around each employee, companies might pull desks apart. Chairs on casters will help people roll their seats a safe distance from one another.

“The whole point of kinetic furniture was to bring people together,” said Kelly Griffin, a principal at architecture firm NBBJ. “Now it has a different function: to pull people apart.”

photo credit: sireanko