For most of Europe, we are finally on our way towards a post-COVID-19 reality, where the virus is still a threat but as a collective, we have understood, planned and taken action against the new normal that we are living in. We have identified solutions and are taking the precautions that allow us to move into the future, reopen our countries and restart our businesses and economies. Additionally, this important stage starts with repopulating the places that for months have laid empty. Yes, it’s time to get back to the office. This big step will move us into truly finding our new normal. In this recent survey created by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), 2 in 5 (39%) workers are concerned about not being able to socially distance from colleagues when back at work, showing us that this is not a step that is to be taken lightly. In fact, there are key areas that workspaces must consider and offer direction to create a safe and secure work environment and provide employees and office goers with the confidence that their workspace will always prioritise their safety.
As a coworking space, we understand what it takes to create a workplace that puts our members’ wellbeing first, and in doing so, we have always aimed to provide a safe environment. However, this global health crisis pushed us to find more reliable solutions to everyday activities and explore new ways for our community to collaborate while respecting new restrictions. At Talent Garden, we have a dedicated team, a task force as such that has been and will continue to guide us to provide a workplace that holds our members’ health, productivity and wellbeing as our main objective. We have found new solutions, redesigned, and reinvented to reach our goal and to be the ideal, safest, and flexible alternative workplace after working from home has been essential during the Coronavirus pandemic. For a safety culture to indefinitely emerge within our spaces and among our community, we focused on three fundamental factors: cleanliness and safety measures, redesigning physical spaces and supporting our community to function while keeping them safe. All of these areas have been addressed with an abundance of caution. As it is the nature of our spaces and business model to adapt, we will continue to evolve and implement new strategies as they develop.
Cleanliness and Safety Measures:
One of the most critical and prominent solutions to creating a safe office space is to ensure that your cleaning service is using all of the correct materials to disinfect and clean all surfaces and areas to guarantee maximum safety. It is still unclear how long the virus COVID-19 can last on any given surface, but when we can ensure daily cleaning of all high contact areas, we can eliminate this factor. We also need to consider how we can support personal hygiene. This can be handled by keeping tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, at key intervals inside the workspace.
Furthermore, we need to inform, educate and direct the people inside our offices and common areas. Sharing needed information notably and visually will support everyone in respecting restrictions and protecting themselves and others, adding posters for how to wash your hands in the bathrooms, guiding visitors where to sit and indicating stopping and standing points to avoid gathering.
It is essential to understand how to embed these safety measures into your environment without causing stress yet give members a sense of security and confidence that inside this space they are safe.
Redesigning Physical Spaces:
The next challenge is focused on the rearranging of your physical office design. It is not a simple task to design a safe physical space that once aimed to bring people together and now in a post-pandemic era, needs to encourage social distancing. The BBC highlights “Pandemic-proofing offices could involve short-term fixes, new working patterns and long-term design upgrades that put hygiene at the heart of workplace planning.” It is also important to keep in mind that the changes made now will not be forever as it is beyond doubt, just as this crisis showed us how things can change in an instant. So with this core understanding that designs need to be based on adaptability, office space must now be fluid and able to transform even with just the idea of a possible future pandemic. Even if smart working and remote working are indispensable, a Gensler Research Institute workplace data reported that a well-designed workplace is still the place that people want to be.
As we reinvent the workplace to accommodate regulations such as wider corridors and doorways, more partitions, more spaces between desks etc. We will also see the integration with technology and the acceleration of the ‘smart office’. We should invest in the correct protech advancements to benefit the flow of people and space occupancy and enabling a “contactless” option, which will be very powerful in the coming months.
Keep our community connected and safe:
Even though personal space is a necessity to adhere to the new normal, people still have found a new appreciation for being together and have an enhanced need for community. Moving forward we will have to mix virtual and physical experiences to bring people together in a safe and secure way. Whether it is a team, company or as a managed office space, it is important to restore that sense of belonging.
After this mass “working from home” phase, the office has been put under the microscope, trying to understand why we need it and what is its new purpose for the future. Although we have never viewed our campuses as a place to “come and work” but as an inspirational environment that empowers professionals. We are building a community, not just a coworking space. This view must be the same for all workspaces moving forward. It is key to create a space that keeps occupants safe while building positive relationships, encouraging exploration and continuous learning, and personal conversations because that is where innovation stems from.
The home office is something that will forever remain in our lives, but remote working and smart working always need a base, a place for a team and company to call home and to come back to when necessary. It is human nature to want to be together even if distancing is one of the most vital strategies for slowing the pandemic, it clashes with the deep-seated human instinct to connect with others. While creating the workspace of the future and redefining the work norms, we will always have an aspect of social connection within these new strategies. People regulate emotions, cope with stress and are more resilient when they feel that they are part of a community and can connect with their team. In fact, while we understand the power of working from home to give your employees more freedom and to support your high potential team, the home office is not a one size fits all solution. For example, The 2020 State of Remote Work report by Buffer showed 21% of remote workers say that the biggest struggle of working remotely is loneliness. That is why the future needs safe, flexible and innovative workspaces like coworking.