Work in the Post COVID-19 Era

April 2020 | News

How can we adapt work and social environments to new sanitary and hygienic conditions, strike a balance between remote working and the traditional office setting, and guarantee health and safety in co-working and leisure spaces? These are just some of the issues that we are most concerned with when we talk about "getting back to the new normal".

The transformation we've been experiencing in the day-to-day lives of companies, workers, and individuals has revealed a process of social change that has only just begun. Remote working, driven by the current health crisis, is the first step of a profound reshaping of work models and, consequently, the spaces that house them. Open spaces that, until recently, were filled with people, are now occupied by individual workstations that respect the minimum safety distance; meeting rooms, events or conferences now limit the number of people in them or have been reconverted into "safe" operating areas are just a few examples of the transformations that are taking place.

A minimum distance of 2 metres between workers, reduced capacity, ecological awareness, digital transformation, ergonomic furniture, self-supporting protective panels, antibacterial materials, and flexible and versatile spaces are just some of the key concepts for these reinvented workplaces. There are also action protocols that make it easier for workers to maintain their personal hygiene and that of their workplace, signage that guarantees safe movement throughout the facilities and significant implementation of technology, with body temperature control cameras and sensors that reduce the need to touch things in shared areas such as lifts or bathrooms.

It is essential to be able to reinvent and adapt these environments to new needs, including design, furniture, and decoration. Although a priori, the open work areas that define many offices and co-working spaces could become possible sources of infection, there are many measures that can be taken to avoid this. Reducing their capacity, indicating the minimum distance to be respected or separating areas with solutions such as the versatile and configurable Link panels, or the methacrylate and glass protection partitions that Actiu has just added to its catalogue, are just some of the proposals to improve the safety of staff and clients alike.

The current absence of treatments and vaccines, and the potential for new outbreaks of the pandemic in the coming months, is also forcing companies to adopt layouts that allow them to react to all possible scenarios. The safety distances and sanitary conditions that are now considered valid may no longer be what is required in just a short period of time, so it is essential to incorporate solutions that prioritise openness and flexibility.

For all these reasons, if there is one thing that should characterise the new workspaces, it is their ability to adapt to a time of constant changes. Places designed by and for the people who inhabit them, thanks to flexible furniture such as the Mobility height-adjustable desks, the wide range of open plan desking, tables and executive desking from the Longo or Prisma ranges, or the ergonomic and versatile TNK Flex, Stay or Trim office chairs, whose use and layout can be adjusted with very little effort.

Although remote working isn't going to replace the traditional office setting entirely, the possible intermittent distancing that will determine work and social activity from now on means that the ideal solution will involve an intelligent combination of the in-office work and remote work models. Many companies now have the priority of ensuring the productivity and well-being of their staff, both in the office and from home with Home Office positions, not only by implementing collaborative online tools, but also through furniture with technology that has been incorporated and adapted to unexpected changes in use and capacity. The folding and height-adjustable Talent desks that facilitate movement, assembly and disassembly; the Whass multi-purpose seating; or the Noom soft seating with its newly incorporated Noom 50 visitor chair, are just a few of Actiu's proposals. Versatile and easy to move around, they humanise the space and allow companies to guarantee the health of their staff, regardless of the type of workplace.

Having good air quality through adequate ventilation, temperature, and humidity, and lighting that respects people's circadian rhythm, are other aspects to consider when reinventing these new workspaces. Sustainability, through the use of environmentally friendly materials, and an increasing commitment to recycling, conditions a design that's focused on the health of workers. Along these same lines and in continuity with a philosophy committed to people's well-being, Actiu has opted for the use of 0% melamine formaldehyde in all its products and upholstery options with antibacterial fabrics that repel dirt.

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