Interior designers can help you get back to work safely.

Getting back to work will include more frequent disinfecting practices but will also most likely include the redesign of workspaces by adopting design strategies commonly found in healthcare facilities. Why healthcare? Because healthcare facilities have followed strict guidelines on safe & healthy spaces for quite some time. Additionally, healthcare facilities have come a long way and can easily be integrated into the workplace. Because each business is different, designers and business owners will need to work together to develop infection control practices that work best for their unique business practices and needs. First and foremost, practices and policies will require putting employee and client safety first. Although our focus is on businesses, any space that serves as a gathering space for medium to large groups of people, including cultural arts facilities, any level of education and learning, to libraries, retail stores and service businesses, they all will need to rethink their design and use of materials.

How will new design strategies impact the corporate office? The quick resolution will be to implement a regimented cleaning schedule and accessibility to, optimally touchless, hand sanitizers. Additionally, our team is developing concepts of how the office will look with social distancing through 6’ aisleways, spacing out workstations, creating staffing shifts to minimize the number of staff inhouse at one time, and so on. But more deeply, we will also need to focus on the cleanability of materials and to limit surface touch points.

Believe it or not, there is a lot of technology and science behind the development of materials used in healthy spaces. They are engineered to minimize the harboring of microbes and bacteria that embed themselves within porous fibers and other surfaces frequently touched. Even though we have already seen anti-bacterial upholsteries used in areas where there is food, like a break room, these fabrics will begin to find their way into the surrounding corporate spaces very quickly. Other hard materials such as solid surfaces, quartz, plexiglass, plastics, specialty laminates and glass can also lend a hand in minimizing the harboring of microbes, bacteria and viruses. Incorporating these highly engineered, yet easily accessible materials, will become the new normal throughout the office.

Let us take a moment to think about the air quality in the office. Even if we create separate office spaces for individuals, the air is shared through the mechanical system. We do have the ability to add filters within the ductwork to help minimize the spread of microscopic airborne particles. According to Filtrete, a leading air filtration corporation, you can improve office air quality in relation to airborne particles. Particles 0.5 microns and smaller can hang in the air for up to 41 hours. While air filters cannot reduce the risk or prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they can help provide cleaner, fresher air. There are filters available that can pull in and capture a percentage of microscopic airborne particles, including bacteria and particles that carry viruses. Keep in mind that the higher the MPR, the more effective the filter is at reducing unwanted air particles without harming your HVAC system. Specifically, you want to look for an electrostatic filter versus a flat panel/fiberglass filter with an MPR rating of 1500 or above.

Think of this as your office wearing a mask. The mask does not prevent the virus from getting into your body. But what it does is add an extra layer of protection to capture particles that may more easily spread from one office to another without the addition of the filter into your mechanical system.

Incorporating healthcare design standards will now include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Bleach cleanable and antimicrobial fabrics – polyester, polyester-vinyl composites, vinyl, acrylics and silicone.
  • Materials and surfaces that can be easily cleaned which are non-porous, antimicrobial – solid surfaces, quartz, glass, specialty laminates, plexiglass, and plastics
  • Incorporate sanitation items into each workspace
  • Incorporate touchless options wherever possible including faucets, toilets, entryways, elevator controls and hand sanitizing stations. These touchless features might be controlled with a smartphone app. Some experts even foresee the removal of conference-room doors as an anti-germ measure.
  • Improve or add air filtration from space to space

 

As we start to look forward, it is critical to understand that the design of our workplaces can not only directly impact the experience of our employees, but their health and safety, too. Let your design team help you create your strategy and lessen the overwhelming feeling you are experiencing. Your business may look different. But innovation and flexibility will help you make it through this critical time.