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Architects change workplace layout as companies mull office reopening

From door handles operated by foot, retrofitted separators between desks, markers on floors to ensure one way movement and monitoring of employees through cameras with thermal sensors, the growing list of demands by companies looking to provide safe workplaces is leading to an unprecedented surge in business for architects to reconfigure workplaces for the post-lockdown period.

Top architects who provide interior design services to corporates say that most of the client briefs revolve around one thing—how to limit the spread of the pandemic by reducing proximity of employees.

“The request now is to re-configure the existing spaces for maximum utilisation keeping in mind the social distancing norms. One-way movement, which is most efficient, will be decided and floor markers are added to ensure the same,” said Meena Murthy Kakkar, Design Head and Partner of Delhi based architect firm Envisage.

In fact, Singapore headquartered Space Matrix, that designs workplaces for many multinationals in India, have said they had to change even routine items like placing printer paper sheets for every employee and having separate ‘keys’ for employees to open doors.

"All the talk of work from home is not sustainable in longterm. Many companies are willing to incorporate necessary changes before they resume work,” said Akshay Lakhanpal, Chief Executive Officer, India, Space Matrix.

Remodelling of offices comes at a time when most multinationals have asked their employees to continue working from home although lockdown curbs have been eased for most offices even as coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise across the country.

"In larger offices, two separate lobbies can be created—one for entry and the other for exit. The aim is to facilitate movement in a single direction, either clockwise or anti-clockwise so that two people do not cross each other in the same direction,” said Sabarno De, vertical head, corporate interiors, Edifice Consultants.

Commercial interior makers are also stepping up with newer launches suited for the changed work atmosphere.

For instance, VAMS Global, a visitor management system has launched - SafeGuard - which can scan body temperature, record it and also read faces with mask compliance.

“The use of interconnected devices and sensors can help workplaces reduce the need for employees to touch surfaces, organisations could also use light sensors and next-generation ID cards to make the workplace more efficient. Workplaces are now trading fingerprints sensors for face recognition tech for attendance, taking a leap from the currently used biometric attendance system,” said VAMS Global spokesperson.

Experts say that workspaces will now have a more health oriented approach.

"The fundamental tenets of work and workspace design will change, so will the products that go into a workspace," Vikash Anand, Director - sales and marketing, Partner at Flipspaces that launched Reboot Spaces, focussing on social distancing, hygiene and sanitisation.


June 08, 2020

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