Businesses will have to reinvent how employees work in an office environment. Picture: Supplied
Businesses will have to reinvent how employees work in an office environment. Picture: Supplied

Will coronavirus be the end of hot desking?

As Victorians start heading back to work in a bid to reclaim normality over the coming months, how different will life in the office be?

With new guidelines in place, businesses are strategising on ways they can adapt their offices to comply with social distancing and hygiene rules.

For many businesses, hot desks are frequently used.

This means office workers use whatever desk is available rather than having a particular seat.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said that "hot desking would have to be done in a different way".

"If you are doing hot desks or sharing common spaces, frequent cleaning. We want cleaning products everywhere. We want staff to have a responsibility for hygiene. Hand sanitiser everywhere," he said.

The coronavirus pandemic is set to change the way office fit-outs are designed: Picture: Supplied
The coronavirus pandemic is set to change the way office fit-outs are designed: Picture: Supplied

Vanessa Serruto Senior Interior Designer at ODC Design said hot desks will still exist in some businesses "but they will be designed with a new type of division".

"You would need to reinforce a clean in, clean out policy after someone has used the desk.

Possibly a sanitising station nearby or design joinery that is easy to disinfect like smooth surfaces, antibacterial surfaces and fabrics that can be cleaned," Ms Serruto said.

Safe Work Australia released 1300 pages of guidelines for employers and employees across 23 industries.

Key points include moving desks to keep workers 1.5 metres apart and using floor or wall markings to show correct spacing to ensure one person per four square metres.

Ms Serruto believes businesses will "have to reinvent how people work in the office environment".

"It will effect the way the furniture and joinery is arranged in a space. There will be the use of screens, panels or other barriers," she said.

"With technology we may need to implement a hands-free solution such as voice activation, sensors."

Prof Murphy said the workplace guidelines were part of a national effort to "keep Australians safe over the next two to three to four months while safely relaxing restrictions".

Ms Serruto said she would "absolutely" adhere to the guidelines in her future designs.

"As designers we are creative and there are many ways you can implement new ways of working and people will eventually adapt to that," she said.

"There would be a lot of wasted space but it is possible."

She suggests using flexible furniture that can be easily moved and operable walls to divide and expand spaces or screens on castors.

"Overall we gradually have to prepare staff to return to their offices by changing the density, geometry and how the space is arranged depending on the task that is being done."

Originally published as Will coronavirus be the end of hot desking?



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