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A common sense approach to post-COVID workspace planning

May 31, 2020

There is a bandwagon of people saying 'Let's put loads of sneeze-screens everywhere', as though that could solve the problem. At the end of the day, a lot of the disciplines involved in trying to implement more agile, flexible working lend themselves to lower volumes of people coming into the office. 

 

A company like PwC already has clusters of different working environments all spaced out one from the other. If you just reduce the throughput of people, you will be able to work safely in line with the new guidelines pretty easily. If we are going to see more agile, flexible, remote working, you are going to have to have less assigned spaces and therefore you are going to need more lockers and you will have a lot of things that were assimilated for flexible working and agile working that are going to be as relevant now that you have fewer people coming into the office and rotations. 

 

We ourselves will experiment by putting up a few plexi screens here and there, maybe freestanding ones that are a bit more flexible, and e will be encouraging people to make use of what is already there in the way of boardrooms and meeting rooms, just limiting the number of people in them. We are not convinced that businesses are going to be doing much redesigning beyond that, because I think they see this as more of a short to medium-term issue, not a long-term one. 

 

Should something specific be required however, we are well equipped to co-create a solution. People have gotten used to modifying standard platform products. We take that right the way round to provide a co-creation process for specifiers, which we call Infinity from KI. We have ut a lot of investment and back-up into this process, in terms of design and engineering capabilities but also manufacturing flexibility, so that we are able to respond quickly to customer requests with rapid prototyping and very cost-effective manufacturing. Not every time someone comes up with 'new sliced bread' is it 'new sliced bread'; they might just have a spin on it. But sometimes it can be an entirely new and novel ground-up design. What we offer is an engineering and enabling capability that can make it a reality. 

 

Right from the get-go, KI was very entrepreneurial, developing systems with companies like Sun Microsystems and Microsoft that were exactly what they wanted and which they would call their own. We still do that, with Facebook and a lot of other very big clients. We offer them engineering support - like an Arup to a Foster. 

 

The two-metre rule was part of the government's desire early on to make a clear message stick. But the first wording they used was '2 metres wherever possible'. It was always in the back of their minds that this wasn't aways going t be possible and that it wasn't a panacea for safety. They are now looking at relaxing that; it is just a question of how they relax it and where they put in a caveat saying you can do it, but only if you have done this, this and this, like wear a mask. Obviously you want to encourage visitors still and you want people to feel safe coming to you, so you put in handwashing stations and all those kinds of things and a recommended route through the office. The rest will be dealt with, frankly, by just reducing the number of people in at any time, so it is possible for people to pass without being cheek-by-jowl.

 

 

by Jonathan Hindle  Group Managing Director - EMEA, KI

Jonathan originally trained as an architect/designer before moving into sales and marketing in office furniture and property. His expertise covers real estate, workplace strategy and product design just to name a few.

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