One day, Covid-19 will cease to be headline news. Lockdowns will be talked about in past tense and our workforces of the future will be back in school. Workplaces of the future need to be safe places that consider a new culture.
However, some of the habits formed and routines enforced by the pandemic may well remain long into our post-Covid world. Hands-Face-Space messaging could influence social interaction far into the long term along with Autumn/Winter mask trends, the morning run and also our heartfelt respect for our saviours in the NHS.
When it comes to work, there’s a distinct possibility that life will never be the same.
Many organisations have already accepted that homeworking will remain to some degree. Teams, Zoom, Google Meet and a host of other professional video call platforms will mean that collaboration remains an integral part of office/remote workplace culture. Now, more than ever, we know that WFH can be seamless, productive and a credible answer to a healthy work-life balance.
But it would be remiss to assume the demise of the office is nigh. In a recent survey by leading workplace designer, Morgan Lovell, 91% of workers said they ‘would like to work in the office for at least some of the week after the pandemic, with 68% preferring at least two days.’*
Lockdown has taught us that social capital counts
The reality is that the vast majority of people enjoy and need the social interaction that comes with a workplace environment. Yes, there’s a space for video calling, but what we really want is to sit down with each other and collaborate, to form ideas together, to get inspired and to motivate our teams. That’s social capital for you.
If lockdown and its stay-at-homes, Rule of Six and bubbles has taught us anything, it’s that being with others makes us feel good – as Morgan Lovell puts it, ‘social capital is the glue that brings people together’. Enshrining this concept in our workplace culture can help us thrive in ways that will see more than just our bottom lines thrive…
So, with a prospective reincarnation of the office on the horizon, what will it look like and how will it work in practice?
A welcome difference
Well, once we’ve balanced and navigated the way we travel to work, and many of us will certainly have ditched the tube or bus for two wheels, we’re likely to face automatic doors that will help us avoid potential contamination from the first traditional touchpoint.
Inside, you might need to pause in front of that thermal body scanner to ensure you’re fever free. Your eyes are likely to meet those of our receptionists through glass screens, or sneeze guards, that will protect both parties without losing the welcoming intimacy we like. You’ll be looking down too – reception desks may be set low to discourage touching and the security process could comprise automated, disposable sticky labels or a QR code check-in with visitors using NFC-enabled wayfinding signage to get to their meeting point via their contactless pathway with confidence.
On the way, you’ll notice the touchless lifts are less busy, with on and off-peak occupancy limits and more spacious lobbies for those waiting to go up or down, but hey, take the stairs and you’ll be on your way to your 10,000-steps-a-day too.
Keep it clean and Safe for Work
The risks associated with Covid-19 might have passed, but infection awareness is unlikely to wane. We’ll be seeing more touch-free devices with sensors or voice activation controlling everything from taps and towel dispensers to doors and meeting room controls.
Plentiful hand-sanitiser stations and signage will ensure clean-as-you go is the way to go, while smartphone apps that remind us to wash our hands and clean our desks will mean we’ll never have a laptop sanitisation lapse. Indeed, although desk-sharing and hot-desking ratios may be reduced, the onus on keeping it clear for sanitisation between users won’t.
There’ll probably be a new set of kitchen rules to observe too. Clutter-free worktops, door-free cupboards, personalised mugs and BYOB will make life easier for cleaning and reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Any touchpoints may be made of copper, thanks to its naturally microbe-repellent material.
And so to work, which is where things get exciting because, after all, our post-Covid resilience will depend on productivity, innovation and performance. In turn, all that relies on a workplace culture that puts collaboration and community – essentially, its social capital – above all else.
Practically speaking, the social distancing legacy may mean we sit further apart in our less densely occupied offices, but we can do much to engender interaction and promote collaboration. Communal spaces that prompt teams to move away from their workstations and ad hoc meeting hubs and pods that encourage spontaneous collaboration will keep people talking and sharing ideas.
A workplace that’s populated by teams first, individuals second, where everyone feels safe, trusting and trusted makes for a powerful collective – and one that’s likely to stress less, achieve more and celebrate together.
For a time when the global pandemic has wielded its worst and people need to feel things will get brighter, the Pantone Colour Institute has selected two colours that represent happiness and give us hope. The fusion of Pantone’s 17-5104 Ultimate Grey and 13-0647 Illuminating Yellow is a reassuring nod to hope and aspiration during these times of uncertainty.
Let’s get physical
In order to keep the inspiration flowing and sustaining its momentum, consideration for the practicalities of the post-pandemic workspace is critical. So, let’s get creative.
Eliminating people silos and teams that could all too easily become disparate through distancing, can be bought together safely with protective workplace screens and room dividers with antimicrobial surfaces and beautifully designed glass manifestations that put the brand centre stage too.
Environmental graphics that have long been recognised as energising forces, not to mention the dynamism they inject into office interior design schemes, will dominate the workplace landscape. From digital wallpapers, showstopping supergraphics and groundbreaking LED illuminated works of art, bringing the office and its people to life will never have been easier – or more rewarding.
These are the workplaces we’ll want to be in and part of.
Building on what we’ve learnt
Our building systems will change for the better too. Of course, our windows will be open more to encourage natural ventilation while air conditioning systems that use UV light to kill pathogens will reduce humidity and prevent germs from multiplying in the process.
Durst, who Signbox trusts for its digital printing and production technologies, will see its revolutionary UVC-R Air Disinfection System brought from the lab to the office and doing its bit to reduce our viral load. Disinfected room air will be led into a closed system and irradiated with UV-C light and recycled back into the room – minus the infectious aerosols, viruses and germs.
We may even be wearing sensors that work with fixed sensors to stream data to keep our environmental systems monitoring us and our buildings, kicking in and cutting out when humidity levels demand it.
The future of the workplace – today
The future may be full of unknowns and what ifs, but one thing is certain: we’re in it together and together we’ll stay. Collaboration, community and our social capital will ultimately be fundamental to our post-Covid success story – our very survival, even – we have no choice but to invest in it now.
There’s no time like the present to plan and prepare for what comes next – and the good news – these ideas, technologies, designs and systems are all here and on the table today.
If you’d like more of a look through the window to your workplace of the future, Signbox has a powerful suite of sign and design solutions that can have a powerful and very transformative impact on the way you work.
Get in touch with our expert team on +44 (0)1784 438688 and we’ll help you get started.