The Dancing Office at Stephan Hürlemann Zurich, Switzerland

Swiss architect and designer Stephan Hürlemann uses his Zurich studio as a testing ground for new ideas. ‘The Dancing Office’, originally designed pre-Covid for another company, uses mobile partitions that can be configured to act as bookshelf, TV shelf, brainstorm board, cloakroom or room divider: ‘A tool that has one design language for the vertical workspace – which is very important for open-plan offices,’ says partner Barbara Hutter. The layout has been adapted to allow space for movement without having to think about social distancing.

- Single desks are positioned in their own partitioned rooms. 

- The studio has a capacity of 13 at any one time with a weekly schedule. 

- Acoustic curtains create segmented zones. 

- The main meeting room has been expanded in size. 

- There’s a disinfection station at the entrance and workstations are cleaned before and after use.

The 6 Feet Office at Cushman & Wakefield Amsterdam, Netherlands

Having helped thousands of organisations in China return safely to work, real estate company Cushman & Wakefield developed the concept for their ‘6 Feet Office’ in just over a week. The idea is that co-workers keep six feet apart at all times – and the company has also released a self-assessment guide for employers that focuses on six key elements: preparing the space; preparing the workforce; controlling access; planning for social distancing; reducing touch points; and communicating.

- A visual route marks out the flow of traffic in the office, which is clockwise, at all times. 

- Coloured carpets create visual six-foot barriers around desks. 

- Plexiglass shields are positioned on desks. 

- Workers take a paper deskpad when they arrive at the office to lay down at their workstation – and dispose of it at the end of the day.

Reducing friction at NeueHouse Los Angeles, California

Co-working company NeueHouse re-opened its Bradbury space, located in one of LA’s most historic buildings, in August. CEO Josh Wyatt says, ‘We’re taking a cue from how offices used to be designed – with big open spaces between desks and a high ceiling.’ Instead of putting up physical barriers, such as Plexiglass, Josh says they’re focusing on reducing the number of people in the space – and reducing friction wherever they can. ‘People just want expediency. It’s about reducing anxiety, reducing time spent and increasing health and safety,’ he says.

- All the tables come with wireless charging for phones and laptops ‘to reduce touch moments’. 

- Custom-built phone booths have lights above them that are on or off depending on whether someone is in them, reducing the need for unnecessary movement. 

- Air-purifying plants have been brought in for filtration and to bring a sense of calm. 

- Before arriving, guests receive a text with a link to fill out all the necessary health-and-safety forms. 

- If guests turn up unannounced, there are QR codes outside the building that provide the key information. 

- A booking system has been implemented where guests can book their seat for the day – either online or ad hoc.

The hospitality mentality at ARC Club Hackney, London

Neighbourhood workspace ARC Club opened its east London location in August, in a cosy space of just 250 square metres. Approaching social distancing in such an intimate space has led to a change in mentality, as director of operations Lucy Harrison says, ‘The safest way to approach it is like a hospitality environment. We want to make people feel good. It can be quite daunting going back and we’re mindful that everyone is dealing with this quite differently.’ 

- Staff are given Covid-specific training, and protocols include filling out due diligence spreadsheets. 

- When members join, they’re given a Covid-focused tour to ensure ‘verbal education’. 

- ARC Club has developed community and team guides for members. 

- Sharing tables have been divided, halving capacity, with four people per table and Perspex dividers. 

- Every 15 minutes, desks, handles and toilets are cleaned by existing staff members on a schedule. 

- Social distance markers demonstrate appropriate distances to stand and the direction of travel – the space is one way.

This article was first published in Courier issue 37, October/November 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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