Back to Work: Rethink, Re-Evaluate And Retrofit for Safer Workplaces

The Blank Slate develops a handbook, of post-lockdown guidelines and design interventions for workplaces to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

The handbook is a cheat-sheet of affordable, easy-to-execute programmatic and design solutions that can be retrofitted into an existing office setting. The publication also contains a comprehensive set of safety practices that streamline the course of ‘social distancing’ within a workplace. A large part of our world’s workforce has been forced to work from within the confines of their home. Globally, as we’ve begun to lose more livelihoods than lives, lockdowns will soon end to reboot the world economy. As the world enters a dimension of coexistence with COVID-19, living and working while social distancing has now become the ‘New Normal’. The Blank Slate, a Mumbai based architecture collaborative, recognized the need for workplaces to adapt to this ever evolving pandemic, and has created an open source book that can help offices to quickly adapt their built spaces to the situation.

The biggest challenge workplaces are going to face is how they can adapt contemporary office layouts for physical distancing and prevent offices from becoming virus petri dishes. The handbook aims to ease the process of transitioning to the ‘New Normal’ of social distancing and presents design strategies to help our workforce to return to their desks. The book provides targeted novel solutions for various typologies of spaces such as:

● Entrances

● Lobbies and vertical circulation

● Workstations

● Conference Rooms

● Cabins

● Dining

● Breakout Areas

● Restrooms

● HVAC Systems


Keeping these spaces in mind, The Blank Slate has designed novel safety interventions that are high-performance and affordable in nature and can be retrofitted to existing workspaces of various scales and layouts.


The spaces can be divided into two axes:

● Space-centric Solutions: Interventions for space typologies common to every office format

● General Solutions: Programmatic and design interventions that can be applied to every space, regardless of their function


Space-centric Interventions


Access Spaces and Lobbies:

● Installation of automatic doors, facial recognition security systems to make entry contact-less.

● Use of manual / automatic thermal scanners to ensure screening of potentially sick people.

● Body-virus busters at entrance to ensure full-body sanitation.

● Creation of separate delivery station for collection and dispatch of mail and food parcels.

● Installation of a sneeze guard at the reception desk.

● Solutions to manage traffic flow.


Staircases, Elevators and Escalators:

● Position markers at every 5 th step on the stairs and escalators. Demarcating paths of ascent and

descent on stairs.

● Queue dividers at landings for effective crowd control.

● Crowd management solutions like dedicated arrival timings for employees.


Workstations:

● Chairs and tables should be reserved for use by a single person.

● Eliminate alternate desks/chairs from use.

● Using privacy panels between desks when elimination isn’t possible.

● Covering workstations with a newspaper sheet / plastic mats prior to use.

● Grouping employees into teams to limit office density.

● Relocating storage cupboards to redefine circulation routes and clear demarcation of an individual’s workspace.

● Guidelines for printing stations.

● Creation of solo work corners.


Conference Rooms and Executive Rooms:

● Reducing capacity of conference rooms where possible.

● Switching to standing conference tables for quick meetings.

● Converting conference rooms to spaces with phone and video-conferencing booths to encourage the use of a virtual collaboration environment over in-person meetings.

● Making use of single-seater sofas.

● Avoid multiple users when using electrical equipment like projectors.


Pantry, Dining and Breakout Spaces:

● Placing orders on cafeteria-management applications. Using digital display boards for orders to reduce crowding at the serving crowd.

● Covering the dining table with a sheet of plastic or newspaper before use which can be disposed of.

● Creation of space for storage of personal tiffin boxes.

● Introducing virtual games that can be played from far to allow for personal interactions.

● Creation of meditation pods for better mental health.


Restrooms:

● Enforce occupation management tools like occupancy door tags. It aids in effective management of users and frequency of sanitization.

● Install motion sensor faucets and flush plates, foot pedal sinks to eliminate the need for contact.

● Use paper towels or napkins instead of electric hand dryer to reduce spread from microbes present on the hand through aerosols.

● Toilet seat covers should be laid on the seat before use. Automatic UV Seat cleaner can be be installed for sanitization after every use.

● Alternate use of stalls to allow freshening up between use.


HVAC:

● Air filters consisting of UV Radiators and Air Filters can be introduced at the start of the distribution system in each room. The air filters are constituted of a UV Lamp, Carbon filter, HEPA Filter and a removable Pre-filter.

● Air-conditioners can be retrofitted with copper elements like copper mesh and pipes, to filter the air of microbes.

● Detachable air filters can be used on existing pedestal fans. The filter can be made of Borosilicate Glass microfiber pleat sheets encased in stainless steel framework, which can be paired with activated carbon filters.


General Solutions:

● Identification of high-contact surfaces (Door Hands, Faucets, Electronic Equipment, etc) and

developing easy to execute solutions, along with ensuring frequent sanitization.

● Using workspace nudging tools to change employee behavior.

● Using 3-D printed/ metal attachments for doors; viz. Kick Handles; that enable their hands-free

operation.

● Replacing accessories like door handles, faucets with variants made in brass or copper, as these

materials have antibacterial properties. These accessories can be covered in copper tapes if replacement isn’t possible.

● Making use of 3-D printed personal accessories like ‘Hygiene Hand’ that are designed to facilitate push-pull actions without the use of fingers.

● Installing automatic hand-sanitizer stations in every enclosed space and corridors.

● Face mask and glove dispensers should be installed in every space facilitating their use among people not carrying their own, while also providing personal mask holders to avoid its contact with infected surfaces.

● Making use of coloured tapes to demarcate areas that are off-limits to use and to demarcate

direction of movement.


Additionally, the handbook contains the following:

● Practices to ensure safe personal interaction and collaboration along with physical distancing, once the workforce gets back to work.

● Practices to leverage technology for a contact-less experience

● Office and bathroom hygiene protocols that delineate sanitization methods, frequency and other

practices.

● Efficient collaboration when working from home

● Equipping the office workforce with safety tools


With their publication, The Blank Slate aims to equip workplaces with information that goes a long way in improving safety in their respective environments.


Download the handbook here:

https://www.theblankslate.xyz/backtowork

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