What popular workplace design principles have been unwittingly contributing to the spread of infection?

Aesthetics vs space planning

One problem is when interior designers focus too much on the aesthetic, the look & feel, and ignore the critical overriding key principles of science behind workplace space planning, and wellbeing in the workplace.

Height Adjustable Desks

Where height adjustable desks are being used to resolve ergonomic issues & concerns, poor placement (as part of a mismanaged space planning strategy) and poor accessorisation, has led to an opportunity for germ transfer that wasn’t there before.

Hotdesking

One fad in the workplace, hot desking, leaves us open for further issues. You may as well call it ‘germ-desking’ as there are multiple people using the one space. Quite often, they are just a table, which isn’t ideal from an ergonomic perspective. Quite often a cool table, maybe with a very expensive light fitting over the top – as per the glossy magazine photos. A well-managed workplace strategy doesn’t rely on hotdesking (which is another whole science on its own). The provision of these spaces, without intensive hygiene controls & cleaning methods, essentially creates an incubator for viruses to spread.

Airconditioning

Another design flaw which unwittingly contributes to the spread of infection in the workplace is over occupation with the aesthetics. This is often as a result of the interior designers taking the lead and increasing the focus on the actual furniture and the look and feel, as opposed to applying the science behind good workplace design. This can result in budget cuts, resulting in hyper-key elements being reduced, such as air-conditioning. The primary objective of air conditioning is not necessarily to maintain temperature control, but importantly to ensure the introduction of fresh air and ventilation. This makes sure that the air is being changed, bringing in fresh air from outside, and has the filtration to deal with the spread of infection by air recirculation. This is a really key element that interior designer lead workplace transformations will often cut back on: the critical infrastructure of air conditioning – and unwittingly contribute to the spread of infection

What our researchers have come to understand in these recent months, is that a lot of work we have been doing with acoustic mitigation & reduction of acoustic trauma also assists with the reduction of germ transfer. These strategies in the workplace, combined with space planning aspects create healthier workplaces. The 5 Principles of Design, being Ergonomics, Lighting, Biophilia, Spatial Engagement & Acoustic Control, play key parts in improving workplace health.

It is possible to get the design right the first time. There’s never been a more important time than now. The experts are saying this may not be the only coronavirus (COVID-19)and there may be more strains. As a society, we are going to become far more aware of infection control, and what everyone can do at a personal level to minimise spread. This includes what workplace designers & employers can do, applying good design practices, to decrease the spread of infection in the workplace going forward.

We are all about creating thriving, happy, community business that can deliver in the workplace and create harmony in their communities.

Other videos in this series you may be interested in:

Why is now the perfect time to renovate my offices?

Did we apply workplace standards in line with social distancing prior to this pandemic? 

How will social distancing impact our workplace in the future?

What are the positives we can learn from this pandemic?

What Ergonomic risks can I avoid from working from home?

How can I avoid loss of productivity working from home?

Will the COVID-19 led ‘work from home’ culture mean I need a smaller office?