The epidemic threat still affects our everyday lives, and the situation of the global crisis forces the implementation of necessary changes in virtually every area of our lives, including the work environment. What can be done to ensure employees safe return to the office? What remedies should be introduced and how to reorganise the space to ensure the mental and physical comfort of the employees?
The necessary minimum is not enough
The obligation to ensure comfort of work rests with the employer. People should feel at home in the office, with particular focus on the sense of safety. This is especially important now, after long weeks of national quarantine, when the sense of threat has not passed yet, and the economic activity is slowly getting back on track. It is possible that we will spend the next year or two in conditions of increased sanitary regime, and the perspective of the continuous epidemic will have a permanent impact on our reality. After experiencing the global pandemic, safe working conditions will certainly become a key aspect when choosing a place of employment - especially since scientists do not exclude further problems with viruses after the end of the current crisis. From the employer's perspective, investment made in the indicated areas seems inevitable.
For employees to return to the offices with a sense of comfort, and at the same time function as efficiently as possible, it is necessary to take care of every detail. The necessary minimum includes the introduction of sanitary measures: providing with disinfectant liquids in aesthetic, touch-free dispensers, regular ventilation and disinfection of rooms, ensuring increased distance between employees. In addition to introducing the necessary remedies, it is worth going a step further and making an effort to remodel the office arrangement, which will maximise the effects of actions made and enable the operation of dispersed teams.
Implementation of new solutions while maintaining the friendly nature of the workplace
The primary goal of the employer in preparing the arrangement should be to optimise the workplace in terms of sanitary restrictions; at the same time, the office should remain a friendly and aesthetic space encouraging to stay in its area. However, it is not that simple; it is easy to create the hospital and laboratory atmosphere and thus achieve a cold discouraging effect that will only increase the level of stress in employees.
To start with, it is necessary to designate easily accessible places for disinfectant liquid dispensers, implement touch-free solutions (automatic temperature control system and face recognition system will certainly be sought-after tools in the coming years), and also ensure that the implemented procedures are communicated properly. Information boards should be aesthetic, integrated skilfully into the space and preferably based on a design consistent with the corporate visual identity. In order to perform systematical disinfection of a room, first it must be ensured that the air conditioning and ventilation work faultlessly, and whether they need to be thoroughly disinfected. It would be good to choose a more sophisticated method of informing about the current sanitary condition of the rooms than the one we all know from toilets at petrol stations. Perhaps an office application that would provide access to information on the state of the working environment in real time would be helpful?
Functional arrangement is the basis - green walls will help in dividing the space
Social distancing is one of the pillars of safety during the plague, but also a chance to increase the comfort of work by providing employees with the desired form of privacy. Individual workplaces should be arranged at appropriate distances - despite appearances, this can be achieved without moving to a larger office. Some employees should work from home, and the other desks should be separated in an efficient and visually attractive way. In such a situation plants can be irreplaceable and have an invaluable impact on employees well-being.
Green walls of the 4Nature Basic line, usually installed on cabinets and near desks will enable creating an interesting arrangement of the office. Owing to them it is easy to divide the space skilfully and break up people in the open space into smaller groups. Naturally dispersed employees, in addition to the increased sense of safety and privacy, will observe the improvement in their work comfort also in other areas. Plants will moisturise and purify the air (a lot of species, including the spathiphyllum, Chlorophytum comosum or Dracaena compacta Janet, have detoxifying properties), have a positive effect on room acoustics, and above all reduce stress and improve the well-being of employees. The benefits for mental and physical health will go hand in hand with the increase of their efficiency and creativity. Furniture with a built-in vertical garden and automatic irrigation system is available in nine sizes and ten options, thanks to which it will easily fit into the space of any office; it can be used as partition or as mobile sliding walls. According to research conducted on our behalf by the Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC) and the Silesian University of Technology in 2019, as many as 86% of office workers perceive the positive effect of plant presence on work comfort. It is worth using this information when preparing the office in view of reaching increased comfort and safety of our own human resources.
Thoughtful design will help deal with new challenges
Lately a lot of new challenges have appeared for employers, including arrangement of the office space. Technical aspects are here as important as design, which has a direct impact on our perception, satisfaction and level of well-being. Care for aesthetics and legibility of messages, improved disinfection and touch-free solutions, as well as vertical gardens that facilitate making a distance between employees are only examples of solutions to the problems that owners of a lot of companies are struggling with today. It is worth considering, for example, conference rooms, which will be used more often than ever before, and where greenery also plays an important utility function.