Architectural Hardware aids in Office Design for a Post-COVID world
Office Design as we know it has always been about workflow. It was important to have an emphasis on efficiency. And mood. It was always thought that employee morale could be directly influenced by design. But did we ever think much about personal safety? Not really, apart from the basic consciousness of being spatially aware of danger. But office design is about to undergo a whole new set of criteria with enhanced concerns for cleanliness and safety. We were approached by The Spectator to voice our impression on the current state of design as it pertains to returning to the office, and below you’ll find some insight on how we expect the industry to shape up in the near future.
1. What are some design solutions you're seeing companies look for as they try to reopen offices?
Obviously, the main objective of any new design solutions is to create a safe work space. This safety-conscious awareness covers areas of social distancing and barriers to create separation between workers who are not able to consistently maintain a safe distance. As we saw many crudely fashioned (some better than others) privacy screens go up in stores to protect cashiers, this set the blueprint for the idea of how we can safely separate in close quarters in an office environment.
Remember, it was not that long ago that many offices switched to an open concept floorplan in favor of individual pods or cubicles to promote a collaborative work environment. Now we are looking at new ways to retrofit those existing open floor models without having to replace the furniture by being able to retrofit sneeze guards and privacy screens in key areas. The nature of the work being performed will dictate the design, whether those screen shall be opaque for added privacy or clear for unrestricted communication, and whether there would be risers or cutouts to allow physical exchange or passage of items. But the basic idea remains the same regardless of application, putting privacy screens in place for protecting workers and their personal work space from airborne agents and other potential physical contact.
2. Are partitions and cubicles on the upswing? What are other kinds of architectural hardware are people looking for?
We are looking for a compromise – the initial knee-jerk reaction may have been to reinstate the high cubicle walls, but that really disrupts the workflow in certain office environments. So, being able to salvage some of the more effective elements of the open office but still outfitting problem areas with proper safety provisions is the best approach. Partitions are a good solution because they offer the same personal protection of the traditional cubicle, but they have a more contemporary aesthetic and are easier to customize to the specifications that best suit your office.
Offices are notorious for spreading germs. It wasn’t that long ago that we all came to work with colds, touched the same door handles and cabinet pulls, then brought that home with us, getting infected ourselves and putting other family members at risk in the process. And it was just normal. Unavoidable it seemed. But perhaps taking a closer look at some preventable measures to limit the danger on shared touch surfaces is easier than it sounds if we take a page out of the healthcare design handbook. Anything that can be operated with motion sensors helps to limit touching. Antimicrobial finishes help on touch surfaces by killing germs after contact rather than letting bacteria settle and fester. And other touchless hardware solutions like foot-operated cabinet pulls and door handle cuffs to operate with the forearm instead of the hand help to prevent spreading germs.
3. Are there particular solutions you have to help workers social distance in the workplace?
Doug Mockett & Company offers a variety of hardware solutions to help create safe work spaces, some of which were available long before COVID-19. Funny how that works, something that seemed like a great idea years ago that just didn’t catch on in the market is suddenly in demand. Go figure. Mockett has a collection of panel brackets, sold individually so you can provide your own privacy screen, and they also carry the actual panel screens too so you can buy as a set. With many panel brackets to choose from, it is easy to find options that can be mounted on a desk or table, or onto an existing partition to extend the vertical coverage. Mockett also has foot pulls for cabinet doors so you can open lower cabinets (esp to access trash cans stowed under sinks, etc) without using your hands. Their door arm cuff gives a unique alternative to opening doors as well, since door handles are some of the biggest offenders in the spread of germs. You can find more information here: https://www.mockett.com/hardware-for-safe-work-spaces