Four ways to make the office safe in the Pandemic

By Santha Gour

To keep up with the threat of Covid-19, future offices will have to introduce physical additions and alterations with of course a mindset change to adapt to the same.

1. More organised entrances
There needs to be ingress of both people and materials into the office – meaning designated times for the arrival of both so as to avoid overcrowding at entrances. During the entrance, complete sanitization of persons and belongings with people, through ultraviolet (UV) or sanitisation tunnels will need to be carried out.

The main touchpoints in elevators are the floor buttons. We can reduce touchpoints through technology-based interventions. A simple QR scanner shown to the elevator panel can directly take the person to his desired floor without touching buttons.

All guests and visitors in large office spaces will be restricted to certain areas of the office building.

2. Sanitisation of surfaces
Certain UV lights are known to kill most known viruses and bacteria. All workstations in large will be sanitised after work hours with the help of sanitisation products as well as UV robots.

The separation panels between workstations will be increased in height so as to provide a perfect isolation cubicle for staff. Alternate seating will be promoted or another name to the same is W-seating.

All meeting room or common area furniture would be changed to materials that can easily be sanitised. All meeting and conference rooms will be sanitised after a meeting gets over. Common spaces like cafeterias will again follow the alternate seating methods.

Toilets or washrooms will be sanitised with UV lights or sanitisation products more regularly. All touchpoints in a washroom, like door handles, will be changed to hardware that promotes less physical touch. Soap and tissue dispensers all should be sensor-based to avoid any physical contact.

3. More Fresh Air
One of the major areas of concern is ventilation and air circulating system.

Building systems like AC ducts are most likely to carry virus and bacteria from point A to B. Opt for filters inserted into the system that are known to kill the virus or trap them, thereby reducing their spread on office floors. Ionizers in the ventilation system help improve air quality. There are a host of plants — that naturally clean the air – such plants should be placed throughout the office floor. While these may not kill the coronavirus, the plants help in keeping the air fresh.

Offices can opt for carpets embedded with materials which stop the growth of bacteria, thereby providing a clean environment.

4. Educate the Workforce
Many organisations will be promoting a work-from-home culture, or an alternate day working culture to reduce the number of people on office floors. Companies should foster more web-based meetings even inside offices, to reduce personal contact. Movement of people in the office with large areas would also be mandated such that it would reduce the crossing of two people.

Large offices should provide vending machines that can dispense masks and gloves for someone who has forgotten the same. Organisations can provide UV sanitisation stations for disinfecting of personal items like mobile phones and laptops.

It’s imperative that companies looking to build new facilities incorporating the above-mentioned infrastructure and technologies. Another way to reduce the growth of viruses is through the use of plywood and laminate surfaces that reduce the growth of viruses.

(The writer is an architect and director of Infinitti Design Studio)

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