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Is it Time to Rethink Your Office Layout?

Welcome to the 6 foot workspace.

Law firms are redesigning their offices amid the pandemic, and the biggest casualty is the concept of shared workspaces.

But some firms are finding creative solutions – like “six-foot offices,” “safe desks” and technology hacks for improved hygiene.

“Coworking spaces have pivoted and adapted to the new normal in smart and creative ways,” according to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Spaces are adapting new sanitation and floor layout strategies to create safe environments.”

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Remote work and coworking spaces were around before COVID. But the public health crisis has forced law firms to reimagine everything from where their employees work to how they wash their hands.

Here are six workplace design trends:

  1. Remote work is accelerating – and it’s here to stay. More than one-third of American workers who previously drove to an office are now working from home, according to this MIT study. Pre-COVID that figure was 4 percent.And though some of those who are now working from home will choose to return to the office once things settle down, experts say around 30 percent will continue working remotely, either full- time or part-time.
  2. Coworking spaces are getting a makeover. “Enter the new and improved co-working spaces: the perfect solution for companies that need multiple locations with flexible layouts,” writes Emily Heaslip in this article. “Coworking can thrive again as companies are forced to restructure and rework their finances. WeWork, one of the leaders in the global co-working spaces market, has adapted its strategy in several ways, catering to the pandemic and anticipated aftershock. With over 100 locations in New York City alone, WeWork offers an array of sites for a dispersed workforce. The company recently added software to help HR departments map out their locations, reducing risk of transmission during a commute for employees.”
  3. Floor plans are being redesigned. No longer are law firms trying to pack as many employees into the smallest possible space. Now firms are creating distanced configurations.
  4. Cleaning has become transparent. “In the past, cleaning was something that happened in the background, mostly when people weren’t occupying the space,” says Heaslip. “Today, visible cleaning is a necessity in making employees feel comfortable in a shared space.” Best practices include: detailed cleaning protocols that are posted publicly; daily antiviral spraying; mandatory hand-washing; free masks, sanitizers and other PPE; sanitizing stations throughout the office; plexiglass barriers in open workspaces.
  5. The six-foot office has emerged. Here is how one property management company is helping its clients create COVID-conscious offices. Among the innovations: 6 feet offices, careful routing for each office, adapted workstations and optimized shared facilities. Other ideas: automatic doors, hands-free check-ins and no-touch light switches.
  6. Online communities keep the interaction flowing. “Pre-pandemic, one of the most significant benefits of coworking spaces was the interaction and sense of community they provided,” writes Heaslip. “Coworking spaces are attuned to this need and are investing in their online community offerings. Companies like Workbar have introduced virtual programming on their live platform while Dayhouse Coworking continues to host its weekly events virtually. Networking can continue to thrive in this new environment if we adapt accordingly.”

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