The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace environment is unprecedented, and businesses will need to re-shape their physical environment and develop new policies to enable employees to return work safely.

Summertown encourages businesses to see this as an opportunity to not only make their workplaces compliant and safe, but also healthier, and more sustainable for the future. In light of the UAE Government easing COVID-19 restrictions, companies can now operate at a maximum capacity of 50% staff, with 100% likely to return to work in mid-June 2020 as per recent government communications for the public sector. Summertown says there are some important physical changes all businesses will need to implement to make their workplaces healthier and more sustainable for the safety and well-being of employees.

The post-coronavirus office will be different from what was ‘normal’ just a few months ago, and for many businesses it may mean they no longer need as much floorspace as some employees continue to work from home.

Here are its top considerations:

Floor plan reconfiguration

Social distancing is the reality of our new workplaces. Where employees sit and work, and meet will need to be carefully planned to ensure social distancing. This can include re-configuring entire floor plans, moving workstations/desks and furniture to ensure social distancing, and adding desk partitions/screens.

Installing hygiene and well-being equipment

Installation of hygiene stations equipped with thermometers, protective items such as sanitizer and facemasks and hygiene reminder signs is the first essential step. Business should also consider installing anti-microbial materials/surfaces, and touch-less sensor technology (motion sensor bathroom taps, lights, sanitizer dispensers, and voice activated elevators and office machines) to reduce the number of surfaces touched by employees.

Improvement of air quality

Global health authorities such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend increased air circulation and flow, and to improve air filtration, and ventilation.

For projects over 2,000sqm, Summertown offer clients LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified level certification free of cost, with the option of silver, gold, or platinum level certification at a surcharge. The team can also assist clients seeking interior certification under the WELL Building Standard.

Marcos Bish, Summertown Interior’s Managing Director commented: ‘Our workplaces have been fundamentally effected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ‘rethinking’ the use of space has become a top priority for companies as they plan for their employees to return to work. At Summertown the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees has always been of utmost importance to us. Our employees are central to how we create value and we believe that in the current challenging climate, it is our duty to support businesses in the UAE by helping them get back on their feet with working conditions that are fit for purpose, healthier and more sustainable.”