Covid-19 Will Transform the Office Landscape, Says WSJ

New York, NY, May 12, 2020-When American workers return to their offices, the landscape will not look the same, reports the Wall Street Journal in “Reopening the Coronavirus-Era Office: One-Person Elevators, No Cafeterias.” 

‘Every part of office life is being re-examined in the era of Covid-19. When employees file back into American workplaces-some wearing masks-many will find the office transformed, human-resources and real-estate executives say.

‘Elevators may only take one person at a time. Desks, once tightly packed in open floor plans, will be spread apart, with some covered by plastic shields and chairs atop disposable pads to catch germs. The beer taps, snack containers, coffee bars and elaborate gyms and showers that once set high-dollar, white-collar environments apart will likely remain closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Many changes won’t go away until the virus does.

‘The office adaptations reverse a decadeslong push in American corporations to cram workers into tighter spaces, with few separations between colleagues. Companies once spent millions of dollars retrofitting spaces to create rows of open desks, intimate conference rooms and elaborate communal gathering areas. Those designs are now problematic, executives say.

“‘All our agencies are open floor plans and that was a great idea in the past, but it now works against us,’ says Harris Diamond, chief executive and chairman of advertising giant McCann Worldgroup.

“Modifying offices to safely allow some workers to return is even more challenging than sending people home, and varying local guidelines complicate the picture.

“‘We’ll essentially put Xs on desks and chairs” not to be used, said Andy Eichfeld, Discover’s chief human-resources officer. 

“Some hallways and stairwells will become one-way, and many conference rooms will stay shut because they are too small to allow people to spread out. If the company opts to check the temperature of every arriving employee, as it does for the small number of workers still accessing its offices today, Mr. Eichfeld’s team is considering how to stagger arrival times to avoid people congregating in building lobbies, awaiting the test.”