people's arms gesturing working together over papers

Human Sense: Common Sense is Not So Common

But human sense is about looking after each other. So, let’s work together for a better future.

Part of the Pandemic Paradigm Series: Buildings Through a COVID Lens

With lockdowns throughout the globe, homeworking has become a new norm for many. Obviously, this does not apply to all workplaces, but if we take commercial offices, as we forge new work practices post-COVID, homeworking is set to become much more frequent and common. Some may argue people will prefer to stay at home and closer to their families than commute to the office. So it is ever important to ensure the workplace is not only safe, but attractive to the staff and a space that can greatly improve productivity.

The question then becomes how to win workers back and how to ensure you are the cleanest environment so your worker would rather work in your office than your competitor’s?

In his keynote speech at the United Nations Forum of Mayors, Norman Foster said that “history tells us that the future is not two-metre distancing” and employers everywhere will want their workplaces to foster collaboration in ways that can only be done ‘in person’, being safe closer than two-metre apart.

To be the cleanest, best place of work, some will resort to the ‘high tech’ solutions, looking at the forefront of technology to disinfect the workplace; healthcare and laboratory technologies may provide some insights with UVc lamps with specific frequency that is safe for humans used to kill every pathogen around. There has even been talks about disinfecting anti-chambers where things get ‘cleaned’ before entering the office (or home).

Others have been talking about bringing the outdoor in, or rather making indoor closer to outdoor. Being able to open a window or a terrace door, or even work outside in your terrace are practices that have been shown to improve worker satisfaction, but are now also considered as cleaner solutions where the larger air flows can dilute and remove contaminants.

Whilst buildings can provide safer environments, we also have to rely on people behaviour and how we can protect each other. I am convinced that some measures we can implement in the buildings can facilitate behaviour change. And I am not trying to allude to the line of thought of buildings changing society, but in more practical ways where we really facilitate, or in plainer words, make it very easy for certain practices that help avoid transmission to be implemented.

Ultimately it is about providing the right environment for the people to work safely and happily. This is not done solely through the systems in place and the disinfection of the air (and surfaces), but through a combination of the overall building design and its systems, working in synergy to make the space clean and attractive. We do not want our offices to become over sanitised spaces, but comfortable clean spaces where we can collaborate safely. Maybe if we can make it easier to wash our hands more frequently, use systems to purge spaces and make them more comfortable and have outdoor spaces ‘coming in’ we can combine health and well-being to the true sense of both words specifically.