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We are in “Fase 2”. Quarantine is over. Companies and works are slowly restarting but what kind of “new normal” is waiting us? We will certainly not return to the “normal” we know.

We need to create a new normal. Design can be a great tool to define, think and re-think public spaces and offices.

How will we get back to work?

Vitra published a very interesting e-paper “Getting ready for the new normal” (free PDF download) where we can find hypotheses and suggestions for companies on how to organize spaces but also ideas and inspirations for smart working from home.

The Coronavirus has changed the way we interact and the way we work with increased sanitary measures, social distancing. Every company will be responsible for taking precautionary measures in the workplace to stop the spread of the virus and  physical distancing remains the most effective tool.

Hinoki, new screen serie designed by Federica Biasi for Manerba.

Screens in semitransparent polycarbonate separate “without dividing” coworkers. Also available in other materials such as cork, blackboard finish and soundproofing fabrics. Design Federica Biasi for Manerba.

The light panel Discovery Space designed by Ernesto Gismondi for Artemide if installed vertically, becomes a dividing element.

Discovery Space, Ernesto Gismondi for Artemide.

Discovery Space, Ernesto Gismondi for Artemide.

Glass screen Skin by Glas Italia, available in many finishes and colors. Wheels make it easily moveable.

Think about how air travel has changed since 9/11. Airport security adopted new procedures and we can think of them as a “before” and “after” the terrorist attacks. This would probably happen also for social relations after the Covid-19. Design is trying to imagine a new “normality”.

Will we have to get used to wearing masks, temperature checks, washing our hands frequently and being very careful of any possibility of contagion? How long will rituals such as handshakes, hugs and cheek kissing will no longer appropriate?

How will public spaces and offices change?

There will be self-opening doors, voice elevators, coffee areas and canteens will be redesigned. Interiors and furnishings materials will also change: easy to clean material will gain relevance, less textiles and more metal, laminate, MDF, plastic, leather (or eco leather) and wood.

In the offices, the distances between workstations will have to increase. Everything will be re-designed. Screens and room dividers will be included between employees – hoping to avoid the cubicle effect of  what Jacques Tati imagined in “PlayTime” in 1967 -, and of course social distancing will be increased. The square footage of the offices will not increase, so how to do it? Smart work could be a solution?

Smart working: does it work?

Many have experienced smart working, working from home. For some it worked very well, for others less, often where living together at home was more complicated and became evident that working from home requires a dedicated space in the home to protect work hours from the interruption and distractions of personal life.

Remote working gives a company access to a global talent pool and at the same time reduces commuting and its ecological footprint. If I don’t have to go to the office every day, I don’t need to live near where I work. A huge advantage for employees but also the possibility for companies to choose from even more candidates.

But working from home is not easy. If you have tried it in these days of forced cohabitation, you have probably experienced the need to have a dedicated space to work (especially if you have noisy relatives or kids at home).

Private and working life will inevitably collide, we must be ready and organized to make them coexist respecting each other.
Vitra in its e-paper indicates 6 things you need to have if you choose remote work:

  1. Ergonomic chair
  2. Appropriate desk
  3. A desk lamp
  4. Wi-Fi
  5. Computer and software
  6. Noise cancelling audio equipment

So far it seems very simple.

Who wants to go back to the office?

For someone, working from home is a dream. Unquestionably it allows incomparable flexibility but you must surely be very good not to get sucked into the daily chores. Working from home means developing an excellent ability to concentrate.

Work from home has wonderful pros, but office work has a big plus – if you’re lucky: colleagues. There’s no Zoom, Google Meet or Teams that can replace them!
And there’s another plus: I have been commuting for years, I hate spending my time on public transport – but that makes you dress, put on make up… going out.

Working from home is not a simple choice, you have to be very well organized and disciplined.

Are you among those who during the quarantine were dreaming of going back to the office or are you among those who don’t want to go back?


Illustration by Atelier CTJM per Vitra