The post-Covid workplace blueprint

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The pandemic has disrupted our work life over the last few months. While many have welcomed the work-from-home (WFH) set-up, in spite of the convenience of not having to commute, WFH could lead to isolation and anxiety in the long run. This working system is not sustainable in terms of our productivity, health and well-being. Surveys conducted globally report that most people would like to return to their offices but they expect their workspaces to be better than how they were a few months ago.

As much as it is inevitable that we will eventually return to the physical office sooner than later, it is also clear that it will be very different from what we would have been used to. New practices, protocols and emerging technologies will be brought in as a result of our learnings from the pandemic and rising concerns about hygiene and social distancing.

The design of our new offices can no longer be based only on space segregation and furniture layout. It needs to go beyond these factors and respect personal preferences of employees and to allow multiple opportunities to connect with others too. This can be done by arranging individual desks as multiple hubs that could function as breakout spaces. These areas could provide users with an interesting setting that would foster creativity and allow for positive social interaction. Air purifying plants could serve as green screens and provide a barrier between the hubs and workspaces. Large screen monitors could be installed in these zones for virtual meetings.

Another realisation many have had over the last few months is that maintaining a connection with the environment is crucial. It has been noted that adequate natural light and ventilation not only lead to a productive work environment, but help prevent the spread of infection as well. Pockets of the outdoors could be brought within indoor spaces to provide relief and act as the hubs mentioned earlier. A few of these hubs could also extend outside and serve as meeting spaces, a shift from air-conditioned spaces to naturally ventilated ones. Multifunctional and flexible furniture arrangements could also mean the use of such spaces for individual work if required. In high-rise buildings, balconies or covered terraces could also be designed to serve this purpose.

It is clear that climate change is real and will most likely bring about more diseases in its wake, some of which could be more severe that the one we are facing now. It is imperative that we take both, the pandemic as well as the environment into consideration when we get ready to move forward to a ‘new normal’ in our work environments over the next year or two.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 7:33:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-post-covid-office-blueprint/article33247480.ece

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