Transparency with plexiglass partitions is in and water coolers are out as offices are being re-imagined amid the coronavirus pandemic. When workers return to offices, they are sometimes finding the space has been redesigned. Varun Bansal, CEO of RJV Office and officefurnitureshop.com in Farmingdale, talked with the Press about new workplace norms.
How is furniture being used to make a healthier, safer workplace? In order to create a safer and better environment to go back to work, we need to make sure the cubicles are tall enough for the employees to work. The industry used to be more focused on an open environment. That trend is going away. People are going back to a safer area where benching is being replaced by cubicles. What happened in the ‘80s and ‘90s is coming back in 2020 with a better, more advanced-looking cubicle with more glass and fabric.
What specific design decisions can make the office appealing? One thing we’re doing to make the office more creative and appealing is not having a wall partition from floor to ceiling. A combination of fabric and glass is a creative and fun way of designing. Light can travel. We don’t want to just provide a fabric-based system. You still want creativity.
Are the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines impacting office design? We created some guidelines based on the CDC such as 6-foot distances between people in work stations and meetings. More space, not people sitting on top of each other. It’s a combination of what the CDC has given. We used that to integrate into the office furniture industry.
Is density changing in the office as well as in other businesses? If you have 100 employees, only 30 percent are coming back. Seventy percent is working from home. It’s not a regulation, but that’s what I am hearing from companies. The work we’re doing is in phasing. The employees coming back get the priority. Once we complete those, we work on other phases.
What are people doing to make a better home office? To make a safe and healthy home office, people are buying one or two desks, one or two office chairs. The demand for acrylic glass, plexiglass, is coming into effect. When they buy small offices or desks from us, they secure their space with Plexiglass. Even working from home, they are securing the home-based offices with plexi around them.
How is technology fueling home office growth and impacting the traditional office? Conventional offices are playing a big role in technology. Demand for software like Zoom has increased compared to three to four months ago. The demand for band width is increasing. As more people work from home, you need more bandwidth to support the work force. Within cubicles, our clients are more focused on having an effective power system running across the cubicles, so they can plug in laptops.
Can you retrofit cubicles? If the existing height can’t be raised, we have a way to put together the frames with acrylic glass. That’s safer at the offices. We manufacture frames based on the height of the cubicles. Those frames are being installed on the low-height cubicles. It can give more height to lower partitions.
What will offices look like in future? Sales are going to be comparatively less, but the demand of redesigning offices is going to be higher. The demand for products like acrylic glass or plexiglass will be higher, redesigning work of existing offices where employees sit in a tight space, getting us six feet of space.
What about the future of the home office? Home offices typically are going to be a combination of a desk, a chair, and a printer. It’s more like a command center that is going to be creatively occupied by the employees.
What’s the fate of the water cooler? The water cooler is history. We have to wait and see the next few months, to see industry trends. When people come back to work, they want to make sure they have hand sanitizer on their desk instead of a water cooler. Hand sanitization, the cleaning of office work surfaces, those are more imperative now. The pantry area. The offices that share microwaves and water coolers, those areas are more restricted.