Director of Client Engagement, POI Business Interiors
Adapting density, geometry, and division to the workplace, plus positive signage, lets workers be safe, creative, and productive.
With staff returning to work, the workplace needs to allow for physical distancing to keep people safe. However, it also needs to be flexible enough to foster employee work modes and behaviours that help the organization achieve its goals. “Whether it’s individual focused work, team collaboration, or group learning, accommodating these different behaviours while keeping employees safe requires tools and technology, and the workspace is a critical driver of that,” says Anne Gowan, Director of Client Engagement at POI Business Interiors, a Canadian company that specializes in workplace interiors.
Connected solutions to ensure safety and productivity
POI has been creating workspaces for maximum productivity for over 60 years by connecting three critical elements: architecture, furniture, and technology. “These key elements differentiate how we reimagine the interior space through our products and services,” says Gowan.
Now with worker safety top of mind, POI’s connected solutions have been modified to allow for physical distancing. “We’re doing this through density, geometry, and division,” Gowan explains. “Density is about the number of people you can safely have in a limited space, geometry is placement of the furniture to minimize contact, and division refers to pieces like screens, panels, and barriers that can be added where it’s not possible to maintain a minimum two-metre distance.” Complementing the workspace layout is finding space and implementing directional signage to maintain physical distancing.
These workplace layout measures not only allow for safe behaviours but are flexible enough to allow for teamwork. “Working from home can be great for focused work, but for things like collaboration, brainstorming, and idea sharing, people really need to be able to come together in the same environment. Such measures, along with our solutions, let people do that safely,” says Gowan.
Planning for the evolving post-COVID-19 workplace
With the workplace constantly evolving, especially during this pandemic phase, companies need to plan for business continuity in the event of a future crisis. “It’s about really thinking through what you’re going to be planning for and preparing the office and developing protocols around that,” says Gowan. “In our own planning, we’re constantly asking the question, ‘Are we there yet?’ in terms of being able to make sure the office space is where it should be,” she adds.
With remote working becoming part of the work ecosystem, technology will become a critical part of the planning process. “That’s another thing we’re considering in our planning: ensuring the design of the space and products used consider those that are either at a satellite office or working from home,” says Gowan.