3 people having a virtual meeting with 2 people on the computer screen

How COVID-19 changed the office environment in 2020

We spend about one-third of our waking hours at work. That’s why our offices seem like second homes and why our co-workers feel like extended families.

However, COVID-19 changed our work environment in 2020. Many of us worked from home for a period. Gradually, businesses reopened and employees returned to the office.

As a B2B company, OFDC Commercial Interiors works closely with national corporations, local companies and mom-and-pop businesses. Our clients represent medical, legal, retail, manufacturing, call centers and other industries. Each has been impacted in some way by COVID-19. That’s evident when walking into any office today.

Our close partnership with fellow businesses gives OFDC unique insight into the challenges and changes in offices across Southwest Florida. Below are seven ways the workplace environment changed in 2020:

  • Interior design: Open floorplans have been trendy since the early 2000s. It’s a deliberate design concept meant to foster collaboration, creativity and teamwork. Unfortunately, medical experts say those shared spaces also foster the spread of germs, viruses and bacteria. Going forward, expect architects and interior designers to limit open spaces in the workplace.
  • Office furniture: Cubicles are making a comeback. Partitions or dividers offer a physical barrier between employees without being totally closed off like an individual office. Although cubicles do not have doors or walls that reach the ceiling, they provide a much-needed sense of privacy and comfort.
  • Reconfigured spaces: When feasible, employees’ desks can be positioned such that individuals are back-to-back rather than facing each other. Desks also can face toward walls rather than open, central spaces. Retail stores and supermarkets struggled implementing one-way foot traffic patterns. Office environments may be more conducive to those guidelines. OFDC provides reconfiguration services for businesses seeking a safer, yet functional, office design.
  • Conference rooms: Staff and client meetings are still necessary, but the invite list might get smaller. Also, natural wood tables and leather chairs may be replaced with acrylic or glass tables and non-upholstered chairs. The new furniture can be easily cleaned with sanitizing solutions.
  • Remote work: Certain types of industries lend themselves to remote work, either as a permanent or temporary solution. During Florida’s “safer at home” order, however, many professionals discovered their home office setups were sorely lacking. After all, remote work requires a remote office. As an extension of the work office, a home office needs a functional desk, comfortable chair, good lighting and a strong Wi-Fi connection. Without those key elements, productivity can suffer.
  • Cleaning: Many businesses have their offices cleaned two or three times weekly. That service typically entails emptying trash bins, sweeping the floor and cleaning restrooms. Now, cleaning routines includes sanitizing all touchpoints – door handles, light switches, printers, fax machines and microwaves. In 2020, OFDC introduced Business Sanitization Essentials to provide employers with an extra layer of safety and protection.
  • Awareness: We now understand how our health impacts those around us. There is no longer an unspoken peer pressure to “suck it up” and power through sickness. If you’re sneezing, coughing or running a fever, just stay home and rest or work from home. Handwashing isn’t just suggested; it’s expected. Many employers are providing Back-to-Work Bags that contain protective face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other safety essentials.

The office – the place where we spend 40 (or more) hours each week – looks different now, and may look different for the foreseeable future. However, no business has ever been successful by looking the same, thinking the same or doing the same. COVID-19 might be our opportunity to take one step backward and two steps forward.

Interested in creating a safe, functional office environment for your company? Call OFDC Commercial Interiors today at 239-347-4876 or complete our Online Request Form.

Note: This blog originally appeared as an article in the December edition of Southwest Florida Business Today.