With a partial return to the office in view, Peter Van Woerkum, COO of Cushman & Wakefield Netherlands insists that we need to rethink the traditional perception of the workplace. For many boards and companies, a shift is well underway. In parallel to creating a safe space taking into account social distancing measures, the question of the value of the office as a place to work is also being addressed.
The objective is to give people a safe space to return to the office if they wish.
The 6 Feet Office concept was designed within Cushman & Wakefield’s very own workspace in the Netherlands but can easily be adapted to comply with the different international regulations. “We started by considering how we can apply social distancing measures to our workplace and by reviewing our floor plans. We realised that we would have to reassess how we view the workplace,” explains the COO. On the premise that the measures will be around for the foreseeable future, they opted for a structural solution together with an architect and redesigned and reinstalled the whole office within 48 hours. A selection of staff completed the final level of testing to determine if the newly designed model is intuitive and if it feels safe to work in.
In addition, Cushman & Wakefield conducted a staff survey to gain insights into the level of comfort about returning to the office. “The objective is to give people a safe office to return to if they wish. We have a schedule and offer a mini awareness training for everyone to understand the new house rules and what is expected from each person.”
Serving clients through the deconfinement
Cushman & Wakefield created a 6 Feet Office video in parallel with the Cushman & Wakefield study from the experience in China, which led to a handbook being published in combination with the 6 Foot Office concept being implemented in their own offices throughout EMEA, but also for clients internationally. Cushman & Wakefield’s pragmatic approach to getting back to work safely has led to a more structured discussion with occupiers and investors on how they think they will use the office after COVID-19 . “Many clients believe they will not return to the workplace as we knew it,” says Mr Van Woerkum.
Clients are given minimal, mid and extreme options for the redesign and a proposed routing: for instance a simple change to the carpet creates a visual social distance between employees. “We want to create a natural flow with as little traffic as possible. The full report identifies the bottlenecks, gives suggestions for changes including budget, and we can also manage the implementation of changes.”
Getting used to this six feet society is something we have to do together.
The 6 Feet Office concept can be applied to companies of all sizes from a single floor to an entire building. The main difference is the short and long term perspective of clients: “The short term involves advice or help to create a safe work environment to return to as soon as possible with minimal investment; the long term is for companies that want to rethink the entire layout of their office on the assumption that a third of the workforce will opt to work from home at least partially as measures from the government relax.”
Back at the office, Cushman & Wakefield recommends having a dedicated person to welcome everyone returning to work, to go through the house rules, and deliver instruction reminders in a friendly way. “Everyone has to get used to this six feet society and you can’t expect people to have that ingrained from day one. This is something we have to do together.”