Commercial Design|May 2020
With Covid-19 redefining the beginnings of the new normal, how is the industry planning its transition back into the office when the time comes?

The current pandemic has completely changed the way we work and this alone is going to adversely impact the way we design workspaces. The corporates are already restructuring their workplace environment; and amongst the many casualties, one other that has fallen prey to the Covid-19, is open-plan offices. As seen in history, this pandemic era will once again redefine several norms. An article in The Guardian had a very mindful observation. It stated: “From antibacterial brass doorknobs to broad, well-ventilated boulevards, our cities and buildings have always been shaped by disease. It was cholera that influenced the modern street grid, as 19th-century epidemics prompted the introduction of sewage systems that required the roads above them to be wider and straighter, along with new zoning laws to prevent overcrowding.

“The third plague pandemic, a bubonic outbreak that began in China in 1855, changed the design of everything from drainpipes to door thresholds and building foundations, in the global war against the rat. And the wipe-clean aesthetic of modernism was partly a result of tuberculosis, with light-flooded sanatoriums inspiring an era of white-painted rooms, hygienic tiled bathrooms and the ubiquitous mid-century recliner chair. Form has always followed fear of infection, just as much as function.”

Given this period of transformation that the industry is going though, Commercial Design talks to several experts in the sector to understand the scale of the impact and the measures necessitated by the situation.

How is the Covid-19 impacting office design and its effect on the future of work?

Ajay Gupta (AG): Covid-19 as an pandemic is and will be ever innovating design space especially for the office buildings, which is one of the largest building types that houses a huge amount of people at any given time.

In last three decades we have mimicked the western architecture of a glass box, with conditioned air to sort human comfort, ignoring the value and ventilated buildings.

In short we will start appreciating the basics of human existence in a space, rather than the superficial comfort of right amount of light, temperature, humidity for comfort level.

Once ‘design’ innovates, so will the work culture, few things which are taken for granted will become a luxury; the same luxury will come with a work environment being more sensitive to human needs.

Akshat Bhat (AB): I think the future is hard to predict. For me, I don’t think this is the new normal. There may be a new normal post the pandemic but there is only so much work that can be done online. So, I do expect a lot less travel for certain kinds of companies Many organisations can work from home and they can demonstrate fairly efficient working abilities. But, let’s not forget a few years ago a lot of IT companies were encouraging hotdesking and working from home until Yahoo insisted that people start working from office space again, because they saw a remarkable drop in productivity. I think people have realised the ability to work with a certain amount of efficiency from home but also because there is a general sense of calm and the need to stay in the house. Post the pandemic, when our schedules start going back to normal, when people go back into the new normal, we will have realised that there are some things that we can do from home, but not all.


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May 2020