From 'officles' to giant sneeze guards: How the pandemic will change your open office

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From 'officles' to giant sneeze guards: How the pandemic will change your open office
The open office has taken over modern business. While controversial, these large, open spaces-punctuated by conference rooms and phone booths-are the design of the day, and their proponents claim they increase collaboration. But open offices are also a communal petri dish. In the age of COVID-19, they're the antithesis of social distancing.


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Open offices will get more open

The open office has gotten less open over time because more people were put into it.

A well-designed open plan has only about 30% of people sitting at a desk. The rest are using other p...


The new welcome space

If you've visited an open office In the past, you've probably been greeted by someone sitting behind a desk. They would point you to a self-serve coffee - all to make visitors feel comforta...


The clear cubicle

A transparent material is used to build clear barriers between people.

We can expect to see clear dividers rise up, creating walls around desks. There are better materials ...


New HVAC systems

Many experts agree that HVAC systems (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) will have to be upgraded. Offices will likely install portable air purifiers as a stop-gap.

In China, b...


Repurposed communal spaces

We can expect a lot more desk lunches and outdoor eating.

The cafeteria could be opened up to more people working through the day, allowing everyone to distance more.



Elevators and hallways present a tricky situation for socially distanced offices. Most buildings didn't build very wide aisles, so you can't maintain the required 6 feet.



New office trends

New office trends

The open office is the design of the day, and their proponents claim they increase collaboration. But in the age of a pandemic, they're the opposite of social distancing.

In anticipatio...



Changes you may see

If and when you return to your office after the pandemic, you'll probably notice some changes.

  • The doors of the building may open automatically, so you don't have to touch the handl...

Working from home

Before the pandemic, only 4 percent of the US workforce worked from home at least half the time. However, the trend of working from home had been gaining momentum for years.

It is estimated that within a couple of years, 30% of people will work from home multiple days per week.

Continued remote work

  • Before the pandemic, a lot of company management and leaders were skeptical regarding remote work. But the skepticism will go away because companies recognize that remote work does work.
  • The economic impact of the pandemic will likely force employers to cut costs. They may reduce their rent by letting workers work from home instead of layoffs.
  • Employers had to spend money on new technology and equipment to work from home - a departure from the norm.
  • Employees themselves are also spending more money to create better home offices.

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Natural light

Natural light is the most fundamental element of a welcoming space.

Employees prefer natural light and views of the outdoors to onsite cafeterias, fitness centers, and daycare. Natura...

Add in the green

People who work in offices with leafy green plants concentrate better than those who work without greenery. Reconnecting workers with a natural environment results in fewer sick days. 

Adding some plants to the office will give your team both a brain and a mood boost.

Consider your company's needs

How do your teams work best? What are their physical and technological needs?

The seven attributes to consider when determining your optimal workspace: location, enclosure, exposure, technology, temporality, perspective, and size.

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A slow change from home to office

A slow change from home to office

The office's history shows how our work has changed and how work's physical spaces respond to cultural, technological, and social influences

  • During m...

At first, the office was an activity before it was a place

  • Before the modern office, monasteries introduced timekeeping to the monk's daily routines.
  • Later, the office was understood to be a factory-like environment.
  • Work was depicted as a series of tasks that could be rationalised, standardised and calculated into an efficient production machine.

How changes in technology influenced the office

  • The telegraph, telephone, and dictating machine changed the concept of work and office design as telecommunications meant office could be separate from factories and warehouses and differentiate between white and blue-collar workers.
  • While these technologies made a distributed workforce possible, American offices became more centralised.
  • Online connectivity potentially ensures a move away from the office to working from home.

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