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August 6, 2020

Is Your Workplace Design and Fit Out Ready To Get Business Back To Work?

With the relaxation of COVID-19 lock-down measures by the UAE government many organisations are beginning to visualize a life after COVID-19 and prepare for re-occupancy. At A&T Group Interiors we are keen to return to normal, but as a fit out company in Dubai we understand that some aspects of our business and workplace design and fit out will need to change in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, build confidence amongst our team and ultimately lower the impact on our workplace as we begin to re-populate. Social distancing, increased airflow and cleaning, well thought out movement protocols plus strategies to reduce the risk of surface transmission, such as clean desk policies are all being considered as part of our commercial fit out solution. The overriding goal is for a safe transition back into the physical working environment to enable us to sustain long-term health & wellbeing at work.

How might workplace design and fit out change post COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic is in different stages across the globe, but as a leading commercial fit out company in Dubai, here are A&T Group Interiors top thoughts about how work and workplace design and fit out could change post COVID-19:

Workstations and Seating Plans

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, individuals should stay at least six feet (two metres) away from one another as a form of social distancing. This theory has already been introduced as ‘The Six Feet Office’ by commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. To implement this concept many firms may need to consider appointing an interior design and fit out company to provide a commercial fit out solution that re-configures their floor plans to create a safe and healthy workplace environment in which to get their business back to work.

The Open-Plan Office

Some love them, some hate them but could COVID-19 be about to reverse the mega-trend of the open-plan office design and fit-out?

Open-plan office arrangements have long come under fire for being distracting and noisy, but these collaborative spaces could now be seen as a potential health hazard and make employees nervous about returning to work.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the origins of the open-plan office were to save on operational costs, emphasize natural light and break down both physical and social barriers. The open-plan offices of today however are often simply used as a cost-effective way of getting lots of people into one space, making these crowded spaces a high risk for infection. This could make returning to work psychologically stressful for many employees and a key factor firms will have to consider when getting business back to work.

Clean Desk Policy (CDP)

It may seem like a simple solution but establishing a corporate directive that specifies a clean desk policy is a key way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

A clean desk policy requires employees to ensure that their desks are clear of all papers, removable media and non-essential items at the end of each day. Organizations who implement a clean desk policy should consider adapting their workplace design and fit out to include lockable storage so that employees have somewhere to keep their items safe.

Signage and Wayfinding

Signage and Wayfinding has become an integral part of everyday life since the COVID-19 outbreak and it is a trend that is not going to go away anytime soon. In order to safely occupy our office spaces the floors and walls will need to be covered in visual instructions and cues to continuously guide our workforce on safe and best practices.

A good approach that has been adopted by a number of hospitals during the pandemic so far has been to create a one-way flow of movement in order to reduce transmission. Signage and wayfinding is used to encourage people to move in a clockwise direction, maytain social distancing and sanitize hands regularly. This approach could easily be adopted as part of a firm’s re-design and commercial fit out solution.

Air Flow

It is well known that good ventilation is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. For some offices, this could be achieved by simply opening more windows to encourage the free flow of air but for those who operate in a sealed workplace it could mean that it is time to consider an office climate control system. This high-tech technology could address poor air-quality and allow businesses to get back to work faster.

Contactless Technology

Embracing more contactless technologies will be a key aspect to reduce disease transmission in the workplace. Implementing contactless pathways, such as automatic motion sensors and facial recognition, will help to reduce the number of times employees need to touch surfaces with their hands and therefore mitigate surface transmission.

Redesign and Rebuild

For many companies, simply following all, or a number of, the above measures could be sufficient for a safe transition back into the physical workspace. However, for others a more radical office redesign and rebuild may be required.

Until recently office design and fit out has revolved heavily around eliminating boundaries and barriers to increase how spaces flow into one another. With the onset of COVID-19 this is likely to change and many companies will need to consider increased provisions for partitions between departments, workstations and corridors, widening of doorways and corridors and in some cases, the construction of more staircases may be required.

Remote Working

The current COVID-19 pandemic has driven all workforces to adapt to working remotely. We have witnessed over a billion people worldwide embrace a digital transformation and develop their skills in an online community space. In many cases, remote working will have been proven a viable and efficient way of doing business and many of the problematic aspects will have begun to be addressed. So what does this mean for the physical office? One thing that is clear is that the need for innovative, reliable technology to support the business strategy has never been more important. On return to physical office spaces we must not forget the lessons that we have learned. Technology should no longer be viewed as an added bonus when it comes to running a business. Whatever the industry, the current climate has highlighted how all organisations must adapt to an improved online and digital approach to thrive.

Future commercial design and fit out solutions should allow the workforce to naturally adapt back and forth to a remote working lifestyle when needed. Workspaces should include optimal use of space, a variety of ‘working’ points and all be embedded with wireless, digital and even AI technology. Interior design and fit out partners should aim to future-proof workplaces by understanding the end users requirements whilst aligning with an overall digital transformation and remote working principles.

Could the recent boom in co-working spaces be over? The demand for interior design and fit out solutions for these types of premises has boomed in recent years following a rise in tech-based freelance and entrepreneurial work around the world.

In January 2020 popular co-working space provider WeWork opened in Dubai in building 4 of One Central. The vibrant shared office offers several hot desks, where multiple workers share the same workspace. The Dubai WeWork address operates as its second location in the Middle East but the question begs how will WeWork adapt to operating in the post COVID-19 era? It is likely that tweaks to it’s predominantly open-plan office design and fit out will be required to get the office back to business as usual.

At A&T Group Interiors we believe that every business has a responsibility to evaluate how their workplace design and fit out can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and reduce future public health emergencies where possible. As a leading fit out company in Dubai we want to pave the way to underpin a future-proofed, safe working environment for all.

To find out more about how our office design and fit out services can assist you - our clients, to create a healthy and working environment contact us at info@atginteriors.com

Our news and blog posts intend to keep our audience up to date with everything A&T. Via this section we strive to deliver information that provides real value to the design and construction industry. If you would like to open a conversation with us, comment or debate – please get in touch with info@atginteriors.com.

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