Turning Offices Into Smart Workplaces After COVID-19

Despite the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the return to the office is still inevitable. In the Philippines, more businesses and developers are realizing the importance of ensuring that the workplace is safer and prioritizes the welfare of its occupants.

According to WeForum.org, remote working will not completely obliterate what the traditional office can offer: Colleagues, Collaboration, and Culture. Therefore, transforming the space in terms of design, location, and allocation should be considered. As an additional precautionary measure, the shift to a smarter workplace proves to be more beneficial and resilient in the long term.

Leveraging on existing innovation and technology is not only a value add but guarantees a safer space that reduces the risk of contracting the virus. Increased demand for spaces that adopt technologies that smoothen remote working and support companies’ environmental, sustainability, health, and wellness will be observed.

In a recent webinar, T1 General Manager John Almosara presented a three-point roadmap in securing the future of the workplace in the new normal. In his presentation, the paradigm of the office should undergo three changes – physical change, technical change, and smart change.

Shift to Smart Workplace

Technological integration is key in successfully transitioning your office into smart workplaces. Sensors around the spaces can provide useful insight on how to right-size your workplace. This will enable businesses to match the change in workforce reporting to their physical space, and how to better cater to their needs.

Protection of occupant wellness and safety is also an aspect contactless or touchless technology can cover. Thermal cameras or scanners can monitor the temperature of employees or visitors going in and out of the building. When integrated into an Internet of Things (IoT) platform or database, property or facility management teams can easily assign different working zones to avoid contamination.

John also noted the importance of safeguarding common spaces in an office building as well, such as the lobby, elevators, meeting rooms, pantries, and lounge areas.

Similarly, occupants will require frequent access to crucial information such as air quality and hot zones around the building. This is where mobile apps or public-facing dashboards can be useful for the convenience of sharing and receiving updates on both ends.

Common areas will also change dramatically as it is tagged as a high contact point in most workplaces. Smart restrooms will be prioritized by employing door contact sensors, anti-bacterial additives in hand washing and drying fixtures, and an app-based alert system for sanitation or disinfection reminders.

John reiterated that companies should consider their office’s movement, physical distancing, and sanitation for developing systems into the new normal.

Truly, the pandemic has long-lasting impacts on the conduct of business as we know it. Given that the need for physical space is here to stay, maximizing technology is an easy solution to invest in, and utilize to ensure safer reentry to the office without compromising the wellness or safety of its occupant.

Looking for a smart workplace design consultation? Reach out to Lana Kier at lana.kier@kmcmaggroup.com.

How can your office design affect your employees’ wellbeing

While office trends may be dynamic, its impact on the health and well-being of the employees should always be one of the priorities of its design. A healthy workplace is an ideal place to work in. According to some research on employee behavior, one of the top three factors that employees look for in a job is a company’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of its employees. This is given more emphasis as the world transitions to the new normal, giving a deeper definition of what a healthy workplace should look like.

The physical space where employees spend the majority of their time daily has a very significant impact on the overall physical and mental well-being of people. An ideal and ‘healthy’ workplace is a space that leads to a less stressful and more productive atmosphere. Companies can provide a healthy workplace by ensuring that the physical work environment is set to the highest industry standards and criteria. An ideal physical work environment ensures that the design and layout of the workplace are optimal for the comfort, productivity, and motivation of its employees.

The design of an office can greatly influence the overall health of its occupants. Architects, engineers, and designers should consider many factors when building a healthy workplace such as:

  • Materials used from construction – green materials should be considered to avoid the hazardous gasses (VOCs) that most carpet, paint, and other materials emit years after construction is complete
  • Furniture selection – correct ergonomics in furniture that promote good posture will allow your employees to work more effectively
  • Indoor air quality – a good air filtration system prevents viruses from being passed from one employee to another
  • Light quality – work areas should well distributed general lighting with little to no glare for an ideal work environment
  • Reverb control – the ideal sound level in an office is around 55 decibels. This is can be achieved by installing sound regulating materials in the walls, ceilings, or floors of your office
  • Integration of speech privacy detailing – provide areas for your employees to have private conversations such as phonebooths and huddle rooms

Workplace design should also prioritize the psychosocial health of the employees. A healthy workplace should go beyond physical modifications and provide greater support to employees to their social needs in the office. The open office layout that supports collaboration and fosters communication within teams inside the workplace is found to be more ideal for employees. The

workplace design should center on versatility, spatial choreography, effective detailing, and design ingenuity. According to experts in workplace design and strategy, to support this well-being aspect, spaces should be experiential for employees.

Emphasizing the importance of promoting health and wellness has never been more important. As the globe continues to battle the pandemic, office buildings and workplaces have been implementing stricter measures to ensure their occupiers’ safety and security. Offices are even identified as one of the locations where viruses spread quickly in a matter of hours given the amount of time employees spend inside these shared spaces.

Designing a ‘healthy’ workplace should not only focus on disease prevention but should also upgrade the lifestyle and general wellness of its employees—facing a pandemic or not.