What are the practical considerations for workplace return?

As workplaces begin to reopen across the country we spoke with David Holt, Founder of 74, to ask about the practical considerations for returning to the workplace and we share product solutions to David’s points. 

74 are a Manchester-based interior design and architecture practice. One of the UK’s leaders in the design of award-winning student accommodation and amenities, we recently published the team’s stand-out student amenities project for client London and Scottish Student Housing within their new-build Symons House student accommodation block in Leeds.  Find out more here.

74 also work regularly on workplace, residential and hospitality schemes, their Founder David Holt explained to us that:

Working remotely has been surprisingly smooth on the whole – and technology has certainly helped. Nevertheless, you still can’t beat the camaraderie of sitting together with a box of pens, tracing paper and snacks and battling through a design challenge! Luckily, we’re blessed with space in our studio and will easily be able to sit 2m apart, with access to quieter spaces such as booths and small meeting rooms. New rules will have to be created all the same – and there’s plenty to say to clients about short-term and deeper workplace changes.

As people return to offices, the emphasis will be on reassurance and information, with every stage of the journey into and through the working day properly considered. There should be increased cycle facilities for avoiding public transport, for example, as well as more showers and lockers for cyclists. Staggered timings will ensure rush hour can be worked around.

On arrival, there should be free provision of gloves, masks and sanitiser if staff request them and a greater integration of proximity sensors so that doors can open in advance. Fixed desking will be the norm, with inter-desk screens ensuring protection. Booths, individual meetings rooms and pods will all need self-certifiable cleaning regimes, with cleaning kits built in to wipe down areas you’re about to inhabit. Touch points should be minimised and voice activation possibilities maximised, whilst a commitment to better air quality will be crucial, with M&E systems filtering rather than recirculating bad air.

Flexitime will also mean some people continuing to work from home. My greatest concern is staff wellbeing. How do we substitute our much-developed intuition for people’s moods at a distance? Communication will remain key, with the encouragement of exercise and possibly even regular health checks, including temperature-taking, before people attend meetings. Whatever the mix, we’ll all welcome unrolling the tracing paper and being able to collaborate once again.

Milliken assist social distancing

To support the safety and cultural needs of the new workplace, Milliken has created ‘Social Factor’: a collection of informational carpet tile graphics that can be easily inserted into an existing carpet tile layout.  Read our full product article here.

Foster + Partners design face visors

With many projects on hold Foster + Partners have turned their attention to creating general-purpose face visors with fast manufacturing processes in mind. The prototype visor, designed by a team of industrial designers, modelmakers, architects and analysts, is made from three components: a visor made from 0.5mm optically clear PETG, an interlocking soft PP headband, and a surgical silicone rubber head strap that ties the two together.  Read how Foster + Partners and other designers have creatively answered the brief to design PPE here.

Hotbox launch desk management system Sedes

The Sedes app comes packed full of features designed to help make your job easier when managing your teams return to work after COVID-19. You can set maximum occupancy levels and restrict the number of entries into the building in a specific timeframe. The ‘Raise an alert’ feature makes it easy for a team member experiencing symptoms to raise the alarm and notify other team members who may have come into close contact with them.  Find out more here.

Twilight Trees space screening

Twilight Trees, a long-established supplier of artful interior and exterior faux-foliage and LED trees to the interiors trade, has been hard at work in recent weeks, creating a rapid-innovation solution that responds to the demands of the current situation. The company has launched a series of elegant 1m-wide Living Spaces™ screens, which can be used either independently or in flush-fitting rows, serving either as branded wayfinding/information devices for retailers and in offices or as table/spatial dividers creating protective zones around diners and leisure-space users, ensuring users not only feel safe, but relaxed, knowing spaces have been designed or re-configured with social distancing and safety clearly in mind.  Find out more here.

Roman Desk and Reception Shields

In April, Roman announced no price increases in 2020; now the focus is firmly on helping customers get open again and trade safely by designing and manufacturing these Shields.  The feet are precision CNC cut from 12mm Glacier White Corian sheet in the Roman Fabrication plant – and have strong double-sided tape beneath them to hold them in place. Read our full product article here.


Bisley, one of the UK’s leading steel storage manufacturer, is pleased to bring Vetrospace exclusively to the UK. Vetrospace, based in Finland, manufactures unique meeting pods and phone booths that incorporate critical health technology, including anti-microbial lighting, anti-viral nano-coating and clean-air ventilation. The result is the most hygienic, private modular spaces on the market.  Read our full product article here.

Contact our BCFA members through BCFA Product Finder.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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