Please note that this set of articles is taken from  IBI with their consent

May 11, 2020 | By Robert A. Peck and Peter Barsuk 

Please note that this article is taken from Gensler's website with their consent 

Designing Government Offices for the Post-COVID Era   

Editor's note: This post is part of our ongoing exploration of how design is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many amazing government workers, the coronavirus pandemic has not displaced them from their normal workplace. For first responders, it has meant a more urgent-but-similar experience working at field locations or on dispatch and in fire houses and hospitals in close proximity to others. For public health and other officials, it has meant coming into the workplace and distancing as best as possible.

But, for thousands of other government employees, it has meant working from home. As we prepare to return to the workplace, whenever that happens, what should public agencies and departments be doing to prepare a workplace that can help people feel healthy?

We’ve been giving this a lot of thought, and have been learning lessons from our colleagues in China. We’ve also been consulting with our colleagues who focus on health and wellness and workplace strategy and have been talking to building industry partners and clients.

Here are some takeaways for the immediate future, and the medium and long term, many of which are no cost/low cost operational solutions.

Immediate steps
1. Stagger people’s re-entry
To help maintain social distance by de-densifying the workplace, not everyone should return to work at once. Employees whose work requires more collaboration or involves direct interaction with the public should return first. Others can continue to telework. Older employees and those with underlying medical conditions should return last.

2. Consider alternating shifts
Divide returning employees into alternate day cohorts to maintain a lower population each day in the workplace. To reduce crowding in lobbies and elevators, assign staggered arrival times and lunch times.

3. De-densify desk seating
In open environments and conference rooms, ensure that people are separated by the CDC-required six feet in all directions. If necessary, eliminate seating in every other seat position. This goes hand in hand with staggering shifts. In open offices, shield seat neighbors by providing a solid partition where none exists now. Continue to encourage virtual meetings.

4. Provide health screening
Most government buildings already have security in their entry lobbies. We should now provide passive temperature and/or rapid COVID screening to the extent that the equipment and testing is available. Employees and citizens showing a fever should be denied admittance and directed to receive medical attention.

5. Clean and sanitize more frequently
This should occur at least daily in common areas. Practice at least daily cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. Provide an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes with at least 60% alcohol for use at employee workstations and pantries, as well as in visible, frequently used locations such as registration lobbies and adjacent to restroom and elevator doors and exits.

Mid-term steps
1. Upgrade air handling systems
Systems should increase the volume of exchange between indoor and outdoor air. Here’s a short primer on air filtration for building owners and developers.

2. Provide touchless offices
Install automatic door openers where possible. Convert buildings to include elevators that recognize employees’ floor destinations from their security card or fob. We go into more details about the touchless workplace in this blog post.

3. Conduct public meetings near the entrance.
Citizen interactions and meetings should take place on the ground floor, as close to the entry as possible (following temperature scanning). If necessary, convert a ground-floor space to this purpose.

Long-term steps
1. Establish work from home policies
We have learned that working from home (WFH) is effective for certain activities that can be performed alone (like auditing and report-writing), and for many collaborative work functions. Planning for office space should take this into account. Office policies need to be revised if they do not include WFH options. Check out these work-from-home considerations.

2. Discontinue seat sharing
For the foreseeable future, organizations will avoid assigning desks on a day-by-day basis. Few government offices have embraced “hot desking” up to now, so it should not widely impact space planning for the next several years.

3. Promote seat distancing as the norm
The open office will not go away. It’s still a great tool for promoting collaborative problem-solving and giving everyone access to daylight and views. But minimum distances between employees will become standard. Maximum numbers of people in meeting rooms will be posted. Note that, combined with more people working from home, this may not require a significant increase in square footage per person overall.

4. Raise touchless to the next level
Over time, make touchless technologies more prevalent in the workplace. Office doors can be automated or completely eliminated. Restroom and elevator doors can sense a signal from an employee’s fob. Auto-operators with advanced sensing mechanisms will become more prevalent.

5. Isolate interactions with the public
In many civic buildings, public-facing service functions, such as permitting and licensing, are already clustered in ground-floor areas. This is a good practice to continue. For both security and health reasons, employees should be able to meet guests outside of their own working areas. Service functions that cannot yet occur online will be shifted to digital platforms at a more rapid pace.

6. Incorporate virtual technology
Public hearing rooms should be redesigned to accommodate virtual participation by hearing officials and citizens. Meetings will include a combination of face-to-face and remote participants. This is not only a health accommodation: it will permit more members of the public to take part in participatory democracy. As a result, hearing rooms will take on more aspects of a broadcast studio.

COVID-19 has already changed the way we work, requiring us to bring aspects of our workplace into our homes. As we go forward, the trend will be for smaller, better-thought-out office buildings. Simply put, the new normal is for our facilities’ design, maintenance, and operations to inspire a sense of health, safety, and trust in our government employees and the public they serve.

For any media inquiries, please contact Kimberly Beals at

April 10, 2020 | By Brian Stromquist  

Please note that this article is taken from Gensler's website with their consent 

Taking Care of Each Other in the Post-Pandemic Open Office  

Editor's note: This post is part of our ongoing exploration of how design is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many of you, I’ve been getting to know a lot of my neighbors lately. We greet each other from the safety of second-story windows. We cautiously cross paths as we return from essential trips to the wine store. We shout words of encouragement as we improvise workout routines in adjacent backyards.

To the outside observer, it would seem like we’ve known each other for years. In many cases, however, these are my first substantial interactions with them in the more than 10 years that I’ve lived in my apartment. Yet here we all are, housebound by a global pandemic, brought together physically and spiritually in a way that looks and feels quintessentially neighborly.

These interactions underscore the very nature of the neighborhood as both a physical and behavioral construct — we’re occupying the same physical footprint and we’re behaving in ways that safeguard our collective health and wellness. Taking care of ourselves means taking care of each other, and vice-versa.

Bringing community to the open office
This concept of community is helpful to keep in mind as we begin to imagine what it will be like to re-occupy the workplace following this pandemic. For years we’ve talked about “neighborhoods” in our open office workplace designs as a way to section off expansive floor plans and encourage collaboration. These were behavioral incubators as well, born from the idea that if employees or teams felt like they owned a portion of the workplace, that sense of ownership and pride-of-place would result in cleaner, higher-functioning work environments.

This time around, it’s going to take a lot more than a well-organized printer credenza to make us comfortable about returning to the office. The behaviors that we’ve adopted and honed these past few weeks — 20-second hand washing, physical distancing, sheltering-in-place — won’t be so easily cast aside once we’re given the all-clear to head back to work.

In parts of the world where the infection rate has significantly slowed and people are returning to work, office colleagues aren’t falling back into old patterns of handshakes and communal dining and lunchtime workouts at the company gym. Instead, they’re importing the artifacts that defined their day-to-day lives during quarantine: face masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and a six-foot radius.

We’re innately social animals, and the in-person collaboration and knowledge sharing that office environments provide will often outweigh the comfort and security of home. It’s also where we do a lot of our best work — Gensler’s recently released U.S. Workplace Survey 2020 shows that that, when given the choice of where to work, people still prefer the office.

Granted, the circumstances are markedly different now, but the ability of the workplace to support productive work and social activity will endure. The specter of pandemic might have taken some of the shine out of the workplace, but it still presents itself as a far more safe and secure alternative to the other work environments such as coffee shops and coworking spaces.

The question, then, is how do we restore a sense of safety to the post-pandemic workplace?

In the past few days we’ve seen ideas for workplace redesigns that are based on architectural workarounds like allocating more private offices and increasing corridor widths. These solutions may address the immediate desire for physical distancing, but what impact would they have on the collective behavior of employees within a workplace? While they might offer you a sense of ease while you sit at your desk and circulate around the office, how do they fit into a holistic design approach that encourages communal care?

Re-enter the neighborhood
Once we return to the office, we’ll need to transpose our newly discovered sense of community accountability back into the workplace.

As we begin to think about who will constitute our open-office neighborhoods and how large these groups will be, we could take a page from the anthropological concept of Dunbar’s Number.

Devised by the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the concept proposes a maximum social group size based on the brain’s ability to maintain relationships. Any group exceeding the maximum number — which averages out around 150 — runs the risk of splintering or collapsing. And within that maximum group size, there are a set of concentric “intimacy circles” for different relationships.

Of those intimacy circles, the workplace tends to operate at the scale of Close Networks (about 50 people) and Sympathy Groups (about 15 people). The reimagined workplace neighborhoods would likely fall in between these sets, bringing together a group of 30 or so colleagues whose relationships are more familiar than Close Networks but not as intimate as Sympathy Groups.

Creating accountability with practical steps
If we follow Dunbar’s model, we’ll each have around 30 new neighbors, and the question then becomes, how do you begin to build a culture of care and accountability with these people?

The process will be just as dependent on change management as it will on interior design. While some of these employees will likely know each other well, be it from working on the same teams or socializing outside the office, others will be newer to the neighborhood.

To bring everyone into the fold, one could implement a series of getting-to-know-you exercises akin to Arthur Aron’s questions to generate interpersonal closeness. These questions could be easily customizable in ways to best suit specific industries, geographies, and demographics.

Once personal connections are established, then design components will play an important role in bolstering and reinforcing this newfound communal spirit. Shared neighborhood resources like storage units, collaboration tables, and lounge areas provide opportunities for group alignment on how these should be used and maintained. Cleaning protocols will play a large part in these conversations as well — especially given their importance to the prevention of virus and bacteria transmission.

Although the timing for our return to the office is uncertain, we can start thinking about neighborhood-centric design approaches as early as now. If we can design workplace environments that create bonds of trust among groups of 30, then we’re designing for the health and wellbeing of entire office ecosystems by default. In the meantime, while we’re chatting with our urban neighbors from the safety of upper-story windows, let’s take this opportunity to observe, practice, and implement behaviors that will be critical to our collective recovery and the future of work.

For any media inquiries, please contact Kimberly Beals at

Stop Managing Your Remote Workers As If They Work Onsite