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Office design trends in a post-COVID world

Work zones are a prime center for technology and community and have always evolved with modern architecture and design practices, writes Hemil Parikh, Founder, Elysium Abodes LLP, Mumbai, in this short essay on the way head.

However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the concept of a workplace in several ways, which was structured on the efficiency of open layouts, team-based workspaces, self-employment, co-working spaces, occupant loads and artificial intelligence. Due to the prevailing work-from-home situation, architects are now reassessing and predicting the reversal of such trends.

Physical distancing is the need of the hour, which is why team-based and open-office setups are likely take a backseat. Architects and designers are working on depopulating conference rooms and constructing space-dividing partitions with an appropriate staff-issued rotating schedule to accommodate a post-pandemic society.

  • Smart office technology: Mechanised frequent touchpoints such as elevator buttons, doors, nobs and sanitary systems would be common to promote social distancing. Technology would be used to facilitate people flow, space occupancy, and contactless surfaces (low-touch but high-interaction architecture). Advanced voice-based interfaces are common in many homes, and architects can predict that a quarter of worker communications with software would be voice-mediated by 2023.
  • Isolated workspaces: Due to the prediction of more independent working, suitable infrastructure would allow interactive meetings between on-site and off-site personnel. Sensory and display technology such as a dedicated mixed-reality room in the premises facilitates distant participants to contribute better in work and training.
  • Restructured air-conditioning: Architects predict floor or zone-wise separation of the air distribution system in future building designs to avoid community contagion. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters with ultraviolet light destroys micro-organisms. Air modifications per hour safeguard amplified levels of cleanliness as well, with sanitation tunnels and mist sprays at corners to disinfect each user.

Workspaces and working styles will never be the same again after the pandemic, hence, our designs must cater to a post-COVID-19 world as well.