Office Interior Design – The New Normal Phase
The seismic shock of Covid-19 has truly disrupted the lives of 7.7 billion inhabitants of the Earth, from remote corners to bustling urban areas. As a result, individuals and organizations have had to adapt and “rearrange” their lifestyles to some extent. Yesterday’s ideals and concepts have become questionable and even dangerous, requiring us to distance ourselves from or eliminate them in order to prioritize safety. The field of architectural and interior design, especially in the area of shared living spaces, is also undergoing redefinition to find appropriate solutions that meet the demands of the “new normal.”
Let’s explore the scope of office design, an area that previously seemed to require minimal changes over time, apart from some reasonable adjustments based on financial conditions or the scale of owning companies and corporations.
Considering the conditions in Vietnam, remote work culture, although not linguistically unfamiliar, has not become a practical reality. The majority of employees still come to the office every day, making offices a necessity. In the past, connecting with colleagues was primarily demonstrated through physical proximity. However, when the Covid-19 disaster occurred, people became increasingly aware of the concepts of “personal space” and the importance of “safe distance” in shared workspaces. As a result, office space design has naturally adapted.
Is open space still viable?
Until now, the imagined image associated with the concept of “open space” has always been a sweet and alluring one. It has been associated with sparkling adjectives such as increased connectivity, elevated creativity, boosted productivity, and a sense of loftiness. It represented offices without partitions, modular workstations for connectivity, long desks that facilitated meetings and work discussions, and a friendly corner for coffee and tea where everyone shared beverage-making equipment. However, times have changed, and unfortunately, the rosy concept of “open space” seems to be facing collective setbacks.
There are predictions of a strong comeback for the old-style partitioned office with limited visibility, where direct communication with colleagues is hindered. These predictions also indicate that many office spaces in the future will be left vacant, posing challenges for businesses in the “shared office space” sector if owners cannot find suitable models. In an era where “privacy” is not just a vague spiritual value but also a specific requirement for health safety, should we choose the “open” or “closed” model?
The meeting point of workspace and hotels
What does the ideal office corner look like before the Covid-19 pandemic? It was a workstation filled with personal items, alongside personal devices, images of the owner or loved ones, drinking glasses, vases of flowers, and various other personal items, especially for female employees.
However, people have begun to feel hesitant about bringing personal belongings to the workplace, and colleagues are often hesitant to touch anything that does not belong to them. It’s chilling to realize that the workspace now brings to mind the image of an indifferent hotel room, where you should not bring much and are always reminded not to leave anything behind when you leave.
For shared spaces, surfaces, and commonly used objects, constant cleaning and disinfection immediately after use are necessary practices familiar to those who have worked in the hotel and restaurant industry. Once this trend develops strongly, it seems unfortunate for those who like to leave many personal marks in their workspace. However, this demand also requires designers to showcase their talents more than ever to meet the new challenges. An office with an attractive design that stimulates creativity in a working environment while still providing essential personal space, ensuring the long-term well-being of employees, is genuinely not a simple task.
Distance – Distance and Distance
Shaking hands and chatting with colleagues upon arrival at the office no longer seem like gestures of intimacy. Everything familiar becomes unfamiliar when maintaining a minimum distance from those around you becomes a new standard of politeness. As a result, the arrangement of workspaces and common areas in shared office spaces must also change to promote social distancing.
Just a few years ago, designers were tasked with minimizing the size of individual workstations and cramming them together to ensure efficient circulation. Now, they must think of ways to expand these spaces while balancing employee safety and minimizing the investment costs for the owners.
The challenge lies not only in the physical dimensions but also in the psychological aspects. For example, a protective barrier is not just a piece of glass to prevent droplets but also needs to strike a balance between maintaining a sense of closeness and not impeding communication. This is especially crucial between customers and service staff in service establishments.
When size is no longer the primary concern, other factors such as furniture details, cabinets, and other equipment need to be given more attention. Material details, surface finishes, and construction techniques are also elevated to a new level. Debates continue, and many still believe in the existence of open office space models.
However, distance – distance and distance must always be carefully considered. Office owners always strive to create a high-class image with customers by presenting a stylish and impressive workspace within a reasonable investment range. On the other hand, employees and customers, in today’s times, prioritize their own safety when entering a working or service environment. Everyone has legitimate reasons for their requirements.
Therefore, the fields of workspace, commercial, service, and public space design face numerous challenges.