Designing COVID-19 secure workspaces

What are the options and considerations for creating a safe office, canteen or locker room layout?

The global Covid-19 pandemic has brought about huge changes to the ways in which we organise our workspaces. Thanks to technology, the advent of home working has become a viable reality for many, but the operability of construction sites and delivery of hands-on roles has required quick thinking and adaption of facilities and equipment. Although the world is looking forward to a return to some form of normality, it’s clear that some things will never be the same again. The “new normal” will likely include steps to enable workplaces to quickly adapt and mitigate the impact of any future pandemics.

How do I create a COVID-secure working environment?

There are many variables to consider for individual sites and offices:

  • Work patterns and behaviours
  • Locality & commuter routes/distances
  • Availability of space & type of building
  • Nature of work/operations performed
  • Public Health recommendations & laws

As a provider of space-planning, specification, delivery and installation services, TCi is your ideal collaborator for FF&E.

We work closely with you to develop the very best possible solution

With this in mind, it is clear that decisions and compromises will have to be made in comparison to traditional site setups and we have outlined some key considerations and produced a brief matrix to explain these below.

  1. Every site is different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when planning for Covid-19 safety or pandemic resilience.
  2. Your agreed working practices and risk assessments will govern the efficacy of any building design or furniture installation. These cannot be prescribed by your suppliers alone.
  3. Collaboration is key to achieving solutions that are safe, practical and cost-effective.
  4. With every Covid-19 safe solution comes a compromise on cost, capacity and workflow. We will do our best to minimise those compromises with you.

Read on to discover how the various solutions affect workspace capacity…

With plan examples based on a 105m2 three-bay modular room, the following is given as a rough guide to some of the solutions we have supplied for clients.

N.B. All of the example plans work on the assumption that masks would be worn by staff whenever they are not at their station.

Office

SolutionHow it helps achieve safe workingThe compromiseCost
Space workstations further apart to achieve 2m distanceAlong with other measures throughout the office, workers can maintain 2m distancing at all timesOffice capacity is greatly reduced (often by at least 50%). Some workers will be uncomfortable with this scenario due to various interpretations of the rules Consider which employees can work from home to reduce pressure on desk spacesShort-term cost reduction due to fewer workstations
Block alternate desk spaces temporarily   (using cordons or signage/removal of seating)Along with other measures throughout the office, workers can maintain 2m distancing at all timesOffice capacity is greatly reduced (often by at least 50%). Some workers will be uncomfortable with this scenario due to various interpretations of the rules Consider which employees can work from home to reduce pressure on desk spacesComparable to traditional setup
Install enclosed screen systems (acrylic glass or similar) to separate staffProvides enclosed and easy-to-clean workstations for office staff to continue as normal, providing other guidelines can be put in place to minimise exposure when using communal areas and toilet facilities.Larger product inventory and installation requirement. Enclosed and uncomfortable working environment. Potential for waste or storage problems post-covidIncreased costs due to larger amount of equipment required
Increase space dedicated to office facilitiesEnables effective spacing of desks to achieve safe working whilst maintaining capacityA larger (approx. double-size) building is required to accommodate the equivalent workforceUsually a much higher cost implication
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By incorporating screens to enclose workstations, a minimal compromise can be made on capacity, providing additional mitigations are put into place.

For added, flexible safety, it is easy to achieve even more effective spacing by sacrificing every other desk, resulting in a capacity of 12 operatives.

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Canteen

SolutionHow it helps to achieve safe workingThe compromiseCost
Single seat canteen unitsAlong with other measures throughout the facility, operatives can maintain 2m distancing at all times. Table is attached to chair and can be bolted to floor to prevent unauthorised movement. Easy to clean   Tables can be pushed together if crisis endsReduction in capacity of around 85%. Most construction sites are operating strict staggered shiftsLess furniture to purchase, so cheaper in short term.
Single table and chairAlong with other measures throughout the facility, operatives can maintain 2m distancing at all times. Some table options can be bolted to floor to prevent unauthorised movement. Fairly easy to clean   Tables can be pushed together if crisis endsReduction in capacity of around 85%. Most construction sites are operating strict staggered shiftsRelatively low cost
Increase space dedicated to canteensEnables effective spacing of workers during mealtimes to achieve safe working whilst maintaining capacityA much larger (approx. quadruple-size at least!) building is required to accommodate the equivalent workforceUsually a much higher cost implication
Provide dividing screens between and across tablesWhen combined with alterations to layout, greater numbers can be accommodated, with the flexibility to allow a doubling of capacity when rules are less strictReduction in capacity to around 1/3, but maintaining future seatingScreens will need to be purchased, but fewer tables are needed
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Switching to single-seater canteen units is an effective way to keep staff distanced during breaktimes, but drastically reduces capacity. TCi has worked with manufacturers in the UK to provide a canteen unit that can be pushed together to form 2 and 4 seater tables when social distancing guidelines are relaxed.

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Using screens, TCi has been able to help many sites with existing 4-seater units to maintain some capacity. By removing some units from the layout to allow safe traffic and screens to divide staff, a 50% occupancy can be achieved, with potential for 100% when rules are lifted.

Locker Room

SolutionHow it helps to achieve safe workingThe compromiseCost
Space lockers and benches further apart to achieve 2m distance at all timesAlong with other measures throughout the facility, operatives can maintain 2m distancing at all timesThe changing room capacity is reduced dramatically by up-to 90%. Cleaning and slow in/out traffic leads to less efficiency on site. Staggered shifts required to relieve pressure.Less furniture to purchase, but potential for delays to work and staff discomfort.
Space lockers and benches, but use screens to increase capacityAlong with other measures throughout the facility, operatives can maintain safe separation whilst allowing more operatives to change at once compared with strict 2m distancingMore elements require cleaning whilst changing room capacity is reduced by up to 75%. Staggered shifts required to relieve pressure.Comparable to traditional setup
Utilise wire mesh basket, attendant operated systemOperatives flow continuously through changing room, receiving allocated changing basket from counter attendant and changing at an easy-to-clean, socially distanced bench before returning basket and exiting, maintaining capacityAttendant required to check-in and check-out baskets. Moderated or staggered shift patterns help alleviate queues at busy times.Comparable to traditional setup
Increase space dedicated to office facilitiesEnables effective spacing of lockers and benches to achieve safe working whilst maintaining capacityA much larger (approx. quadruple-size at least!) building is required to accommodate the equivalent workforceUsually a much higher cost implication
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By incorporating protective screens to an adjusted layout, distanced changing can be achieved, but it nearly halves the capacity of the changing room

Staggered shifts and a single direction of travel help to make this layout effective

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160 mesh baskets can be accommodated in an equivalent layout

Using an attended basket system, space can be used more effectively with operatives passing through more quickly. Find out how our basket system can be the ideal solution

Industry expertise

TCi furniture WORKS has been collaborating extensively with clients and supply partners throughout the Covid-19 crisis, creating safe and effective working environments whilst maintaining successful delivery and installation of products.

TCi has been able to harness its wealth of industry-specific experience and vast supply chain to lead the way in construction site accommodation equipment. From offices to changing rooms and canteen areas, a wide range of solutions have been sourced and implemented.

Notably, as Tier 1 FF&E contractor to Hinkley Point C Nuclear New Build which has remained operational as a key infrastructure project throughout the crisis, TCi has been involved in the transformation of facilities to adjust to new and constantly changing safety guidelines.

The future and the new normal

Despite good news from vaccine development and testing advances, requirements for Covid-19 safety measures are set to continue into 2021 and companies are understandably keen to ensure that any ‘normal’ workplace setup incorporates a degree of flexibility for reacting to this, and any subsequent, pandemics.

You can find a previously published article and presentation on COVID-19 innovations HERE

If you’d like to discuss furniture options and planning for your site or office, contact our team on 0333 0220 824 or fill in the form below: