August 23, 2022

Offices after Corona - What changes for New Work?

Since the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 and the restrictions that come with it have not only determined our private lives, but above all our everyday working lives.

Home office and the long-desired and now achieved work-life balance are topics everywhere - but what will actually happen after the pandemic? What will office furnishings look like after Corona? Which concepts do interior designers have to include in their office planning considerations in order to comply with hygiene standards and distance regulations?

Besides general life issues such as mindfulness and work-life balance, working conditions in particular have changed fundamentally for most of us since Corona. Home office options and flexible working time models have gradually been implemented, especially in larger companies. But what do everyday life and office furnishings actually look like after the Corona pandemic? What fundamental changes will interior designers, office furnishers, employers as well as employees have to prepare for in the future? What innovations will there be in the design of office furniture and in the creation of office concepts? How will one deal with the new hygiene standards and distance rules and still manage to create an attractive office culture within the framework of the New Way of Working?

New ways of working: Office planning after Corona

Since COVID-19 broke out, we have learned that digital working works very well. What previously seemed unthinkable in some companies has become commonplace: Remote work will continue to exist, especially in internet companies. A move away from the traditional office concept, where only physical presence at the workplace counts, is already well advanced.

AsanaInformation exchange and collaboration work flawlessly thanks to digital tools like asana and video conferencing via Zoom or Hangouts. Meanwhile, we are all setting up our home offices and investing in ergonomic desk chairs and multifunctional desks.

The only thing we miss from time to time is the human factor. Some more, others less. And indeed, this is not a purely emotional component that is part of fulfilling work for some.

In the "post-Corona offices", this social aspect, this shared place in reality, absolutely has to exist. Because: the office is a space for meetings and personal exchange, which is just as important for our work as the concentrated processing of tasks. So there will be no turning away from shared offices in everyday office life after Corona.

Instead, the quality of interaction, which is only achieved to a limited extent via video chats, will become more important. Home office and mobile work will only be part of the new way of working.

Regardless of whether it's a conservative administrative job or a new type of position in a start-up: we will have the choice between a home office and working in the office, which will be oriented towards the new standards with distance and hygiene rules in the office furnishing and design.

In the "post-Corona office", it will be just as possible to work in a concentrated manner and give free rein to one's creativity as it will be to work together in a team and meet each other - even away from a purely professional environment.

1. Office planning with new floor plan

Until the beginning of 2020, the trend was still towards open office spaces with shared desk areas with the aim of increasing communication and efficiency.

In the COVID-19 office, this approach will tend to reverse. Whereas until recently 11 sqm were included per workstation, in office planning according to Corona, with flexible alternative areas, the figure is a full 22 sqm. This means that, theoretically, new workplaces will have to be created for half the workforce.

The good news now is that the need for basic workstations and meeting rooms is reduced due to home office and video conferencing. Instead, focus zones, co-creation and communal areas are coming to the forefront of the New Way of Working.

In this context, focus zones for concentrated work in the "post-corona office" will be more important than ever, because not everyone can find a place of retreat at home where they can be absolutely undisturbed. At the same time, areas for creative teamwork will continue to gain in relevance, as this form of collaboration takes place best in real, specially designed rooms.

And thirdly, more space will have to be given to shared areas that create identity. Because when most people work from home, the desire for a "professional home" is all the stronger when they finally come to the office.

In concrete terms, this means on the one hand that office designers will have to restructure multi-space areas for groups under the premises of the new distance rules and hygiene standards. On the other hand, think tanks and so-called telephone boxes for maximum concentration will be part of the office furnishings.

A new feature of private retreats is that office planning must take care to include them on the façade to ensure the possibility of regular ventilation.

In addition, employers and companies will consider working models with shift work: Dividing employees into groups so that they are in the office at different times is one option, in addition to home office, to address the increased space requirements.

Work cells in the office
Credits: Narbutas

2. "Post-Corona Offices" & Walkways

According to Corona, the creation of walk concepts with defined walkways will not only be part of office planning in large companies. As we already know from the retail sector, Corona says that in offices, walking concepts will be created for corridors and all multispace areas in order to create distances between employees. Visual elements such as differently designed floors (e.g. different coloured carpets, furnishing with different floor coverings) or walls (different wall colours or wall designs) visually divide the office space and designate flexible alternative areas. This subtly internalises spacing rules and more clearly demarcates different office areas.

Another plus point: a varied design of walls and floors is used as a design element, making the entire office appear more dynamic, which in turn has a positive effect on motivation and creativity.

Workroom with 2 orange sofas
Credits: Quinti

3. Office equipment and furniture according to COVID-19

Office furnishers and interior designers will primarily focus on multifunctional and movable furniture as well as flexible technology systems when designing "post-Corona offices".

The trend will be towards office furnishings that can be designed flexibly so that they adapt to different needs and special requirements of employees.

In concrete terms, this means that easy-to-clean and washable surfaces will be used in particular. In reception areas, sneeze and spit guards will be increasingly installed to protect employees with many contacts. In addition, privacy screens will also need to be increased between workstations to act as spit guards at the same time.

In addition, adaptive, modular and mobile office furniture such as stackable desks and chairs as well as flexible partitions will be an integral part of office furnishing according to COVID-19. These allow for ever new configurations and can be adjusted to individual requirements of different employees.

Flexibly changeable rooms such as room-in-room concepts also take into account the increased need for "constant change" and are already being considered by manufacturers such as Vitra in office furnishing.

To ensure that future office furnishings with all the safety precautions for increased hygiene and more distance do not look like sterile hospitals, more furniture made of natural materials such as wood will be used and thus contribute to a cosy atmosphere in the "post-Corona office".

In addition, less upholstery and textile products will be part of the office furnishings. Instead, more and more high-quality plastics will be used, with more emphasis on tactility to avoid a sterile hospital flair.

In the context of social distancing with the new distance rules and hygiene standards, office designers will thereby choose more and more "tactile" or structured materials for office furniture that we inevitably have to touch (desks and seating), which at the same time feel clean and hygienic.

In addition, the demand for touchless systems will grow. In addition to sensory taps and soap dispensers, it will increasingly be possible to control lifts and doors by sensors.

In addition, interior designers and office stylists will look for greater variance in the selection of office furniture. From the home office we are used to the constant change between sofa, desk and dining table and have learned to love this dynamic way of working. The flexible alternation between concentrated work at the desk and relaxed work in a lounge atmosphere will also be transported to the "post-Corona office".

Buzzi Space with a laptop
Credits: Buzzi Space

4. Meeting rooms in the offices according to COVID-19

Meeting and conference rooms become important human platforms for exchange in Corona offices. Common areas are essential for building and maintaining personal relationships and trust between employees and strengthening the sense of 'we'.

Conference and meeting spaces are also intimate spaces where confidential conversations take place with both staff and clients.

Meeting rooms provide a balance to virtual Zoom and Hangouts meetings and bring the digital work portion into a healthy balance with the "real" everyday work.

In addition, office designers and interior architects will give special importance to the homely aspect of these rooms. To emphasise the human component of real encounters, these rooms will be more reminiscent of our living room than of an office.

Thus, in addition to wooden office furniture that provides a cosy, warm ambience, plants and home accessories and decorative elements will also be used.

Whereas not so long ago office furniture for furnishing an office was sourced from 2 to 3 manufacturers, today there are often no fewer than 40 that are used for office furnishing. A not inconsiderable share of this comes from the living area with lamps, lounge chairs, sofas and upholstered dining chairs.

A bright dining area
Credits: Ophelis

5. "According to Corona office furnishings" with Zero Touch

Increased digitality will easily drive infection control in offices, according to Corona. For example, cameras that measure the temperature of employees are one way to address increased safety standards, especially in large companies.

In addition, smart home features such as voice assistants and sensors for lifts, toilets, doors and light switches will increasingly be used to minimise the number of contact surfaces.

In addition, office analytics systems are likely to become more common, calculating the current occupancy of the office and - if necessary - sounding the alarm when clearance rules and hygiene standards can no longer be met.

Furthermore, designers will think far and wide about new designs of safety-related and health-promoting measures, such as devices for sneeze protection. After all, it stands to reason that the measures familiar from the retail sector should also be transferred to the office in accordance with COVID-19, thus ensuring increased hygiene.

Credits: Ophelis

6. Co-working also in offices after Corona

Co-working spaces will continue to be used by companies as flexible alternative spaces in the future (subject to compliance with the new hygiene standards and distance regulations).

In addition, it is conceivable that smaller companies in particular will rent out part of their office space to other companies as a co-working area.

The challenge here: On average, about 3 people work at a co-working desk per day. In order to counteract the constant change of these "shared desk persons" and the associated reduced hygiene, a remedy could be found with paper desk pads. This would be a hygienic and cost-effective way to achieve maximum efficiency while complying with all Corona rules in the co-working office.

7. Common spaces in offices according to Corona

The importance of communal spaces such as canteens, kitchen areas, snack points and coffee corners has already been discussed at the beginning. In order to comply with the new hygiene standards and distance rules and still create a place of encounter and exchange, office designers and interior architects could integrate room dividers into the office furnishings for visual demarcation and as spit and sneeze protection.

A good idea is so-called green walls, which divide the office space like vertical gardens and at the same time contribute to a healthy room climate and set fresh colour accents. In addition, walkway concepts will also be implemented in shared office areas, making it easier to comply with distance regulations.

The Office after Corona: Conclusion

  • Importance of co-creation areas and common areas as well as focus zones (e.g. think tanks) as places of retreat in office planning.
  • Creation of walkways and walkway concepts as well as visually different design of office space to simplify compliance with distance regulations
  • Multifunctional and mobile office furniture as well as flexible partition walls
  • Micro-architecture and room-in-room concepts
  • Washable surfaces made of wood and high-quality plastics
  • Combination of office furniture for concentrated work and lounge seating
  • Less seating furniture with upholstery and textile covers
  • Cosy meeting and conference rooms
  • Zero touch using sensors for lifts, toilets, doors and light switches
  • Co-working spaces as flexible alternative areas
  • Employee dialogue regarding the new working conditions

All the preceding aspects make it clear: the right design for your office depends on many different factors. Only a careful needs analysis will lead to a successful overall concept that will have measurable results in increased productivity.

Then contact us and we will advise you on your current project without obligation. We look forward to your inquiry!