Back to the office, visions for shared spaces

In a mixed formula of home working and physical presence, the world of work is making adjustments in this particular post-pandemic phase, in an outlook that is not yet fully clear. In most offices, social distancing regulations do not permit 100% use of spaces. Small and large companies have redesigned facilities, based on analysis of the spaces, new rules of behavior, visual signage to permit safe circulation, and clean, protected working positions.

Several months after the lockdown, instead of disrupting shared spaces with fragmentary architectural solutions, the most popular options seem to be temporary, flexible measures. For example, with the catalogue Back to our Spaces Arper shows how to reconfigure its collections to respond to present necessities, after which it is possible to return to the original layout, reorganizing waiting rooms, lobbies, break zones, meeting rooms, workstations and even home working systems.

From the scheme of the 6 Feet Office, suggested by the international real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, to the white paper Back to the Office of the international design studio Gensler, many companies are developing guidelines and criteria for uniform application in the redesign of offices. With a loftier objective in mind: to reimagine the future. Gensler, in fact, emphasizes that the reconfiguration of the office is not just a necessity connected with the present pandemic, but also a strategic choice over the middle-to-long term, to motivate human resources and to reorganize work dynamics, also thanks to investment in digital infrastructures and technologies that make buildings smarter. This does not mean simply the use of “management” applications to permit guest check-in, reservation of conference rooms, in-house communications, wayfinding or food and beverage services, but also operations that can be performed by workers using their own smartphones, to improve hygiene – along with gradual replacement of tactile interaction with contactless or voice-activated devices and presence sensors. There are quite a few companies in the world now specializing in integrated space management through mobile devices and contactless systems, also boosting security and safety in the workplace. We can mention the solutions of firms like US-based Kisi or the Swiss company Navori, as well as Archie and TapKey, specializing in the sharing sectors, particularly through management of workstations in coworking facilities via app. Looking to the near future, we can envision scenarios of “smart” buildings that recognize users and adapt working positions to them, in terms of preferred ergonomics, lighting and temperature.

While the forced passage to remote work has led us to gain experience with virtual workspaces, the post-pandemic phase will enable us to return to physical spaces, rethinking them by starting with dynamics of interaction, not just with people but also with shared space.

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