• Liz Towner

Covid 19 -The changing face of office interior


When most of the cities in the world have re-opened, the issues at hand for many businesses are how to regain normality in the day-to-day operation of the office while conforming to the guidelines issued by the Government and cut down on costs of re-modeling?

Let us first identify what are the guidelines and try to summarize them. The requirements issued by the Government to the businesses can be grouped into four categories:

1. Social Distancing

2. Hygiene and Maintaining Virus-free


3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

4. Hands-free Operations

Social Distancing – Furniture, Public Spaces, Passages

Being the most important of all measures, social distancing can be achieved by providing a physical distance of 2 meters (6 feet) apart from sitting, standing, walking and passing spaces. While the adaption to installing temporary Perspex screen may be an economical fast fix to providing isolation between workers, the environmental effect can be devastating when they finally all ended up at the landfill. As environmentally-responsible designers, Towner & Partners does not recommend this quick fix instead we suggest re-arrangement of seating capacity to meet this criterion. By alternating hot desk sitting every 2 meters apart and eliminating opposite seating from each station will meet this requirement without additional costs to install Perspex screens. The result of this re-arrangement will necessitate 50% workers to have to work on a stagger schedule from home but the savings on cost of re-modeling and the flexibility of returning to 100% capacity instantly is definitely a more sensible step to take. Apart from working around with furniture settings, the gathering of people in meeting spaces, reception, kitchen and break-out areas must be confined to a certain number of occupant per sq. meter. These spaces should be identified as high-risk areas to occupants with notification signs displayed at relative locations to remind occupants to observe the restriction.

Passages of major and minor traffic should be kept clear for one-way traffic. This can be achieved with directional signage placed at floor level as a reminder to observe direction of travel.

Hygiene- Hand Sanitizer, Hand Washing and Lysol

By now we all aware of how the virus can be transmitted through contaminated surfaces. To prevent the accidental touching of surfaces in and around the office and in and out of public corridors, washrooms and elevators, frequent hand washing is by far the most effective. When hand-washing is not possible, robbing alcohol-based sanitizer will help to cut down contact with the virus that may be sitting on top of surfaces. As a frequent housekeeping routine, wiping down desks, tables, printers and shared equipment and stationary with diluted bleach and Lysol work effectively to reduce the risks of contracting the virus from surfaces.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Although professional health care standard PPE are not required to be worn in an office environment, the habitual wear of non-surgical mask is highly recommended to be worn throughout the entire work period to keep droplets at bay. Thus masks should be available freely for the workers and visitors as soon one has entered the reception of the office.

Hands-free Operations

To eliminate physical contacts by hand, all businesses have adopted the hands-free operations.

Aside from cash-free payments at stores, hands-free operations have been extended to cover door operations and dispatch deliveries. Power- operated door openers should be used whenever possible. Unfortunately, for many offices that have been fitted out before Covid-19, it is quite costly to install a power-operated door opener now. As a cost-efficient alternative, installing an app to scan QR code which has been assigned to employees and visitors to work as door opener and attendance recorder will work just as well.

COVID-19 has put us all in turmoil almost instantly. Many businesses have suffered economically and may never come back. For those who can recover from this unprecedented catastrophe will certainly be affected in one way or another. There might be no more in-person retailing, very little dining in, a lot less need to work face-to-face in an office or much less reason to travel for a long distance for business meetings, all these will mean we have to re-program our mind to react to the unknown. The thought of uncertainly can be frightening. For now, when there is no workable vaccine in sight, let’s keep things in perspective and in control with these simple steps!

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