The economy is reopening with all of Ontario now in Stage 3 of the recovery plan, permitting additional businesses to return to some semblance of normalcy, with conditions of course. Those conditions include adhering to distancing measures and safety protocols such as the use of face masks.

If the reopening is to be successful and ongoing, it will require employers to utilize another strategy: outfitting workplaces with modern office furniture that will function as a safeguard against the resurgence of COVID-19. It’s all about safety in numbers, but with a twist that recognizes the new realities.

Employees Expect to Return to a Safe Working Environment

According to research by Steelcase:

  • Employees returning want to feel safe at the workplace, with most seeking to check into the office when employers have initiated safety measures.
  • Of the changes business leaders have or are making, 84% are engaged in physically separating workstations, while 69% have or are installing dividers between those stations.
  • Fully 70% say reducing the risk of virus spread will factor into their decisions for furniture selection, while 58% see the need for an increase in modular, flexible furniture.

We can imagine what a reopened office will look like, based on grocery stores and other services deemed essential that remained open. Directional one-way floor markings, reduced numbers of people allowed in, and face masks are all important measures to support physical distancing. However, offices, as well as schools, will be required to go even further in their measures to minimize the risk of infection.

Flexible Modern Office Furniture for Shared Spaces

Being able to easily adapt to the new workspace requires furniture that is flexible – it can be easily moved apart or angled to support distancing requirements, or easily shielded to create division.

Dividers and barriers will be commonplace in offices, needed to maintain distancing and keep employees safe. We’re likely not going back to the world of office cubicles, but we will see a pullback from the open-space concept due to efforts to enforce division.

Workstations may include hand sanitizers built onto desks positioned in 90-degree angles, separated by dividers. Desks will have the ability to add audiovisual technology to enable virtual meetings, and workstations will be structured with fluidity and flexibility in mind, rather than permanence.

The geometry of the office will also change, with modern office equipment structured in nodes to enhance distancing while encouraging the goals of engagement with co-workers. For example, small lounges can incorporate a staggered, opposing layout, which will eliminate face-to-face orientation but still allow social interaction and collaboration.

Modern office furniture will need to be durable and able to withstand frequent cleanings. Office lounge furniture, like sofas in common areas, will have to be spaced apart to accommodate distancing measures. And employers might want to contemplate adding workstations to outdoor areas for use, weather permitting of course.

Efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 are already in place, and will evolve as offices continue to reopen. Employers will want to do what they can to assure employees they are returning to a workplace with effective measures and protocols in place. Contact the experts at POI today for assistance in creating a work environment employees will feel safe to return to.