Covid-19’s Impact on Workplace Design

For the Ganter Group as an internationally operating company, Covid-19 had a significant impact on the implementation of projects from the very beginning. With regulations and quarantines varying from country to country, it became difficult to send teams abroad. Delivery times became longer and schedules were uncertain. In some cases, we also had to face production stoppages from suppliers. Travel times has significantly decreased and video conferencing became an important way to connect with our clients. This has also had an impact on the way we work and it is no longer mandatory for the entire project team to work in the office.

What influence will Covid-19 have on the design of our working environment in the future? Our Senior Project Manager Thomas Zeiske (TZ) talked to IVC commercial (IVC) –  a Belgian supplier of contract flooring – about this question and the impact on the way we work.

IVC: Have you experienced a demand from clients for leadership on adapting spaces for Covid-19 measures?

TZ: So far, I haven’t really come across this, which is likely due to the fact that many of our projects and concepts were underway or committed to before the pandemic really took hold. For the main, they were implemented as planned. At the most, we’ve only had to add supplementary measures, such as sanitisation points.

IVC: So, do you think this response to Covid-19 is a temporary one, or that it has lasting implications for the design of workspaces, reshaping our attitude to what makes a good work environment?

TZ: I believe that Covid-19 is set to have a long-term impact on our everyday working life and that ultimately leads to impact on the way we design spaces too. Social distancing, ventilation, hygiene and the successful implementation of mobile technology are going to be key in future offices. Workplaces will also certainly have to become more agile. I suspect that in some cases, area will be reduced and that will see growth in shared workspaces. Fewer people will work in just one place all of the time. There’s no doubt that a blended approach to time spent in the office and working remotely will be a lasting impact. In the medium term, I think that the pandemic will continue to show itself in regulations and directives around the workplace and occupational safety.

IVC: Will we see a more segregated, compartmentalised and individualised approach to space design? For example, a return to smaller team-based offices or even individual workstations and more physical division within a space?

TZ: I don’t think we’ll see segregated spaces, but we will see the world of work and cooperation between colleagues and external team members become more flexible. Inevitably, this will see a shift to physical and digital interaction and collaboration. As a result, spaces will have to become more flexible. Workplaces will need to accommodate working in teams, individual tasks and provide the technology and supporting infrastructure for participation in virtual meetings.

IVC: Has there been a fundamental shift in our approach to workspaces? Will we see a more human approach to the space from the client’s side, or will it once more be a question of maximum headcount?

TZ: Yes and no. I think the changes that were apparent before Covid-19 have just been accelerated and intensified. To this extent, the crisis has been a catalyst for development that was already in progress. In addition, there will probably be more focus on the hygiene aspects of projects. This didn’t play a role beforehand. I think the exciting question will be how we can ensure social distance and hygiene measures on the one hand, whole creating a collaborative and open space on the other, all without barricading ourselves behind plexiglass panels. There’ll no longer be one desk at which an employee works, but rooms that can be used in different ways and allow flexible working.

IVC: What is the most significant thing you have learned from the pandemic in terms of workspace design?

TS: For me personally, the most noticeable effect is that we are now all used to working in more virtual spaces, whether with our own colleagues or customers. I think these new practices will prevail in the long-term and will have a significant impact on space design. There will need to be separate spaces where employees can go to carry out virtual meetings. An open plan office has its limitations for this and adaptations such as booths and pods will be needed to accommodate this at varying scales.

You can find further references for modern workspaces made by GANTER in our Commercial section.