Office Space Planning Considerations & Challenges Post-COVID

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all areas of our lives. From the way we work to the way we socialise and even communicate. We have all made changes in order to prevent the spread in the last few years.

With a returning sense of normality, businesses face a number of challenges when navigating the new work environment. One of these challenges has been learning how to return to work safely.

In order to do this, it’s important that businesses consider the importance and relevance of their office space design. This includes looking at the health and safety of staff, meeting room demands, and hybrid working.

Open corporate office layout with sofas and breakout area to the right, bench desks to the right and private office with glass walls at the back

Key Considerations for Your Office Space Design

Employee Health and Safety

Employee health and safety has always been a top priority in any working environment, but it’s now more important than ever. It’s vital that your employees and customers feel safe when spending time in your office.

With this in mind, you should look closely at office space planning considerations to ensure that your workspace is as safe as possible.

From reconfiguring your floor plan to ensuring there is enough space between workstations. There are several effective office layout design strategies that you can put in place to meet the health and safety needs of your employees.

Other health and safety precautions that you can take include:

  • Investing in corporate office furniture and building materials that can be easily cleaned and sanitised
  • Ensuring humidity levels are between 40% and 60%
  • Investing in hygiene products employees need day-to-day, such as hand sanitizer, paper towels, and cleaning products
  • Increasing ventilation and filtration
  • Making sure employees understand their individual responsibilities for a clean, safe and healthy workplace

Please keep in mind, all employees must receive adequate health and safety training.

Remote Working and Reducing Office Space

The pandemic has prompted many businesses to question if they really need a large amount of office space. And for many, the resounding answer has been no.

With more employees working remotely, businesses are realising that they simply don’t need as much office space. Cutting back will allow them to make significant savings, with little impact on productivity and service levels. After all, advances in technology have made it incredibly easy for businesses to communicate, collaborate and even teach employees new skills at home.

Should this be a long-term decision? Many experts argue that employees working remotely is not in the best interests of businesses. They believe that, when employees are working away from the office, it becomes difficult to determine who is working hard and who isn’t. The impact that a lack of interaction has on employees’ mental health should also be a major consideration.

Of course, the decision ultimately with the individual business – but must be taken into account when planning your office space design.

Boardrooms and Meeting Room Furniture Demands

One of the major changes in how we’ve worked in the last two years has been a significant reduction in the amount face-to-face meetings. Employees have been encouraged to use video conferencing instead where possible.

However, it seems now that boardrooms and meeting rooms are being used again, albeit less frequently than before.

If you find that demand for your meeting and boardrooms has dropped significantly, it might be time to consider whether you need to dedicate as much space to face-to-face gatherings. Some of the space could be better used in other ways, such as spreading out your commercial office furniture or creating breakout spaces where employees can carry out video calls.

When your meeting rooms are in use, it’s important they are used safely. One of the most sensible ways to use meeting rooms post-COVID is to limit the number of people who gather in closed meeting rooms by using a scheduling system and displaying a maximum occupancy.

All meeting room furniture surfaces should also be cleaned frequently, so make sure time for cleaning is factored into your booking system. Investing in an air conditioning or air filtration system can also help keep everyone safe.

Large light oak meeting room table and chairs

Video Conferencing and AV Improvements

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a stark rise in the need for high-performance video conferencing and AV solutions. Allowing employees to collaborate at home, in the office and off-site, these tools are now one of the best ways to connect and engage, without relying on face-to-face meetings.

One way to combine remote and in-office team members is by using conference room media cabinets. By using a media cabinet, staff in the office can collaborate easily with remote workers using large screens and video conferencing.

Open Vs. Closed Corporate Office Layouts

To create a safe and spacious working environment, you might need to consider changing the layout of your office. For example, what percentage of office space will be dedicated to private offices? What about meeting spaces or workstations? You should also think about whether an open or closed corporate office layout will be best.

To do this, you should weigh up the pros and cons of both…

Pros of an Open Office Space

  • Promotes transparency
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Increases engagement
  • Creates a sense of teamwork
  • Encourages creativity
  • More cost-effective
  • Improves accessibility

Cons of an Open Office Space

  • It’s easier for illnesses to spread
  • Employees can clash
  • Problems with noise

Pros of a Closed Office Space

  • Optimum privacy
  • A defined hierarchy
  • Fewer distractions
  • Improved focus

Cons of a Closed Office Space

  • Less communication
  • Expensive to build
  • Employees can engage in negative behaviour
  • Problems with supervision

Outdoor Working

Having enjoyed the freedom that comes hand-in-hand with working remotely, many people might struggle to make the transition back into working behind a desk for their full working day. After all, during lockdowns, many employees worked in their gardens during the warmer months. Others worked in different spaces to break up their working day, and many worked from natural beauty spots.

To make the transition as easy as possible, you should continue to encourage employees to work outdoors where possible, whether that’s to attend meetings, brainstorm with colleagues, or even for one-to-one meetings. There’s lots of comfortable outdoor furniture that provides the perfect environment to work from, as well as heat lamps and canopies to facilitate the changing weather conditions.

Not only will this provide flexibility and boost employee satisfaction, but it will also help create a more COVID-secure workplace.

Outdoor working covered bench area with three employees working together inside

Why Do You Need Office Space Planning Software?

If you’re struggling with office space planning, you will be pleased to hear that there is office space planning software available that will allow you to access the valuable workplace data you need to plan ahead.

Using space planning software will allow you to:

  • Access available capacity
  • Review employee-to-workstation ratios
  • Create new seating arrangements
  • Get real-time space data
  • Adjust cleaning schedules
  • Gain an insight into how your employees are using your workplace

Ultimately, office layout design isn’t just about ensuring that your employees, technology and furniture physically fit into the space you are working with. It’s also about creating a space that works for your people and keeps them safe.

To find out more about office planning, read our Office Space Planning 101 Guide or visit our space planning FAQs post .

If you have any questions or you’d like to discuss your office space design requirements, get in touch by calling us on 0800 298 7033 or email [email protected].