How Office Spaces Will be Designed Differently in a Post-COVID-19 World

by Alex Tostado

With several states reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, JBG Smith has released its “Healthy Workplace Blueprint,” a new design for the company’s offices as tenants return to work. The Healthy Workplace Blueprint focuses on health and safety measures related to cleaning and sanitation, indoor air quality, social distancing and tenant communications.

JBG Smith, which owns and operates several properties in and around Washington, D.C., has been working with federal, state and local health authorities to design this blueprint. Upon arrival at a JBG Smith-owned office building, employees can expect to see doors for entrances and exits clearly marked, a two-person maximum for elevator cabs, decals on the floors of the elevators for where they should stand, staircases labeled whether they are for ascending or descending, and signage throughout the lobby reminding people to stay six feet apart.

“The health and well-being of our tenants, employees, vendors and building visitors has been one of JBG Smith’s top priorities,” says Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG Smith. “Our goal in producing and publishing Healthy Workplace Blueprint is to create an even safer environment, ensure that all stakeholders are informed about what we are doing from an operational standpoint, and educate our tenants about the steps they can take to safeguard their health and the health of their colleagues. We hope that by being proactive, transparent and thorough in our response, we can help ease the transition back to the workplace.”

Furthermore, Plainfield, Ill.-based Cicero’s Development Corp. points out that the average office desk has shrunk 25 percent in recent years, “but a likely reversal is coming, as people won’t want to sit as close together,” a press release reads.

Cicero’s Development advises office users to incorporate sneeze-guard windows between desks as well as staggered desks or set them at 90-degree angles.

The general contractor released its advisory for reducing the spread of virus, which includes staggering desks or setting them at 90-degree angles, as well as incorporating sneeze-guard windows between desks. The company also suggests the replacement of security windows with windows that open to promote freer air flow. Additionally, the company advises office users to utilize the outdoor amenity space as a workplace extension, weather permitting.

Cicero’s also encourages a one-person-per-elevator policy and tape on the floors indicating one-way foot traffic as well as six-foot circles around desks.

“Thankfully, some of the best design ideas are also some of the easiest to deploy,” the Cicero’s press release notes. “Reduce capacities of conference rooms, kitchens and lobbies by simply removing and spacing out furniture. Make it easy for staff and customers to be socially distant by making it impossible for them to sit close together.”

 — Alex Tostado

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