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Pandemics and other international catastrophes have long changed the way architects, urban planners, and designers conceptualize spaces, even though the general public may not be aware of it.
Take the bubonic plague, for example. Historians say that in Europe alone, approximately 20 million died specifically from the disease – a third of the population in the continent at the time.
The pathogens that caused the disease may have already existed for thousands of years before the Black Plague affected entire continents.
However, historical records indicate that traveling sailors and trading ships may have likely set off the spread of the disease. No country was suitably prepared for such an epidemic, but they found ways to control its spread.
To flatten the curve, port cities required the mandatory screening of all ships and trading vessels. Sailors during this time were isolated for 30 days or a Trentino in Italian. Some areas may have extended the time period to 40 days or quarantine. The term quarantine may have originated from this Italian term.
Technology and medicine have evolved drastically since then, but epidemics can still shake up the way people and governments move. How will design and the built environment change with a modern pandemic? Interior fit-out professionals share their insights on this below.
1. Office design
COVID-19 has changed the way companies and brands do business. Social distancing is imposed, whether people are out in public or inside their offices. Workplaces need to adapt to keep workers safe and if the company is to survive.
Office desks, for example, have slowly gotten smaller over the years to maximize the space and fit more workers. To comply with social distancing measures, designers see a reversal of this trend. Instead of smaller spaces per employee, you will see larger ones.
Not only will there be broader desks but more dividers, similar to cubicles in the 1950s. The effects of social distancing measures will be seen, not just on the work floor, but also in other areas. You may see the same design modifications in cafeterias, conference rooms, and reception areas for receiving guests.
2. Keeping clean
Maintaining cleanliness is an essential component for reducing viral transmission. During and after the pandemic, offices need to make it easier for staff to keep themselves and their workstations clean. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this objective, depending on the available budget.
In most cases, businesses and establishments can invest in masks, alcohol, hand gels, cleaning wipes, and other similar sanitizing agents. But given the rising demand for the same products by both individuals and corporations, it may be worth considering other alternatives.
For instance, studies show that keyboards and mobile devices are thousands of times dirtier than a toilet seat. Cleaning these types of surfaces can be tedious. Instead, you can invest in covers that can be wiped clean or sanitizing machines.
Enforcing hygiene practices can also go a long way in ensuring cleanliness. Cleaning all workspaces every evening is an essential practice to remove germs and prevent the buildup of dirt and grime. You can also require your employees to remove all personal effects at the end of each workday to prevent cross-contamination.
3. Contactless devices
ATM keypads, card keys, paper bills – these are a few of the many items used by individuals that are passed on from one person to another. Such objects increase the transmission of disease, so some people have resorted to wearing gloves. However, wearing gloves is not the only way to prevent cross-contamination.
Contactless technology has been around for years. Facial recognition and motion sensors can be used to open doors. No need to use keys or touch buttons so that tasks can be completed with minimal physical interaction.
4. Home-based work
In some situations, going back to a physical office may not be feasible, safe, or practical for businesses or their employees. Working from home may be the only choice.
Not only will this reduce the chances of transmission, but it could also save businesses money. Switching to a home-based setup lowers overhead costs as there is no need to pay for electricity, or rent, among others. On the other hand, there are also issues with taking the home-based route.
For instance, some employees may suffer from reduced productivity levels. Others may not have the right equipment to do their job or to collaborate with their co-workers, and communication may suffer as a result.
Companies who still want to maintain a more or less uniform workspace setup can consult with professional contractors. This way, they can assess space limitations and see if it’s possible to fashion their employees’ home workspaces using bespoke fit-out work.
Shifting from a physical workspace to a work-from-home setup requires a lot of research, preparation, and feedback. Ensuring that the company uses the right tools, software, and devices is essential to keeping the business afloat and secure, even when offices are closed.
Pandemics and similar international crisis situations force brands and businesses to change, adapt, and evolve, whether it is for the short-term or long-term.
The ones discussed here are only some of the potential changes you may see over the next few months or years. Consult experienced interior design contractors to help protect your company structurally in the event of a pandemic or any other type of crisis.