Density, distance and hygiene, paradigms of the "new normal"
After months of confinement and with the arrival of the long awaited 'new normal', terms such as density, distance and hygiene are beginning to become commonplace in the fight against a virus that seems will be with us for some time. With daily changes and little certainty, at present the best solution is to anticipate all possible scenarios, always in the interest of people's health and safety.
COVID-19 has forced the world to stop and rethink a life model that, until now, most people considered acceptable. In many countries, the consumer society is already reinventing itself from a more ecological, sustainable and flexible mindset, with people at the heart of it. Because if anything characterises the future world, it is a speed of change that will require agility and a great capacity to adapt more than ever.
Ensuring the safety of their employees is a key issue for companies that, after adopting an imposed form of remote working for which many of them were not prepared, now face the challenge of converting their workplaces into safe environments. Places where very different areas and uses coexist, which in recent years, aspects such as socialisation and collaborative work have prevailed, and from now on they must prioritise the health of their occupants without becoming dehumanised. It is not a question of creating isolated cubicles and eliminating contact between workers, but of establishing guidelines for density, distance and hygiene, that encourage connections and creative encounters between people without impairing collaboration or socialization.
Reducing the density, respecting the safety distance of 2 metres and ensuring proper hygiene in workspaces are key issues if the safety of this return to work is to be guaranteed. The return to a physical office requires strict measures in designing the space and furniture in order to protect employees and thus prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Within the different work styles Cool Working (concentration, privacy, collaboration, socialisation and learning) where Actiu distributes efficient working environments, the last three are usually the ones with the highest density. To reduce occupancy, stackable or folding furniture can be chosen, which makes storage easier when not in use, or the existing product can be redistributed. It is also possible to resort to auxiliary measures, such as partitions or dividers, which allow the occupancy rate to be increased. These not only physically and visually compartmentalize the spaces but can also serve as a support to control people's movement in the office.
Reorganising flows and freeing up transit areas to avoid impromptu meetings that can block the transit of people, reduce non-essential travel, and make technology the main ally of a new form of communication that prioritises calls and video calls over face-to-face consultations, are other measures to reduce density.
In terms of the minimum safety distance between workers, the established two metres must be respected, or the use of a mask must be guaranteed when this is not possible. In transit areas or corridors of less than two metres, turns must be taken, enabling crossing or waiting areas where visibility is guaranteed to avoid encounters, and installing signs indicating the direction of a flow that is recommended on a schedule to establish a logical and common criterion for all. Movement sensors that detect the close presence of other people and ensure minimum distance, or sensorised furniture that allows people to book rooms and workstations, are some of the solutions that many companies are already adopting.
To ensure the hygiene of workers and customers, it is important to have accessible hygiene points, with gels, masks and gloves at all access points and strategic points along the route. As well as reducing contact surfaces, eliminating traditional doors or through the use of lighting sensors, opening, food dispensers, turning screens and machinery on or off, etc.
In this first phase, it is also essential to incorporate visual measures to help create new distancing, walking and hygiene habits. Versatile and quick installation, vinyl is a good solution. Vinyl can isolate transit areas, create new routes, indicate hygiene points or delimit waiting areas. They can also be easily removed or changed according to how the situation evolves. It is important to opt for a simple and clear iconography, which does not overload and easily conveys the message you want to convey
After redesigning the spaces, companies need to provide a usage protocol to their workers, to re-educate them in this new normal. How the space is distributed, what are the minimum safety distances and traffic rules, where the hygiene points are located, when they must use a mask, how to keep surfaces clean and disinfected, or how to get the most out of the furniture and the new technology implemented, are some of the aspects that everyone must know in order to preserve their health and well-being.
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