We've all spent a lot of time thinking about what a post-COVID factory will look like. But what about the office?
For those workers whose employers embraced the open office setting with low — or no — cubicle walls, how safe will you feel when one of your nearby coworkers starts sneezing or coughing?
Office furniture giant Steelcase Inc. is warning companies they'll need to make changes as their employees return to their desks. That may mean creating one-way traffic in hallways, removing chairs in break rooms, rotating desks to face away from each other to create more space or adding new, higher barriers between desks. Those barriers will have to be easy to clean, so expect more acrylic and other hard surfaces rather than fabric walls.
Providing a 6-foot safe work zone in an office is a big shift for companies that had been steadily shrinking individual desks to put more emphasis on creating a collaborative working environment.
"Infection control is a new priority," Steelcase CEO and President Jim Keane writes in a 30-page primer on the post-COVID office. "Employees will not return to an office that doesn't feel safe, and most of today's high-density workplaces ... will need to be modified."
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Steelcase also will host a webinar on preparing offices, at 11 a.m. Eastern on April 30.