Adapting Public Spaces from the Office to the Classroom for COVID-19

For the last few years flexible, multi-use, and open-planned spaces have been all the rage. What these designs have lacked in privacy they have made up for in cooperative productivity. According to a piece in the Houston Chronicle, open and multi-use spaces promote creativity and communication amongst users, which in turn creates a more positive work environment.

The increasing prevalence of COVID-19 is flipping all of that on its head. Face masks, safety screens, and calls for social distancing mean the days of the open floorplan are all but over. The CDC has published a series of guidelines for office buildings in order for administrators to create a safe and healthy workplace, although these principles can easily be applied in any public space.

In the first week of February, there were 975,959 total cases of COVID-19 in the United States, per the CDC. Of those, 125,735 were recorded on Feb. 1 alone, so it’s crucial that public spaces continue to implement design elements that could reduce the spread of the virus, at least until herd immunity can be achieved through the distribution of the vaccines. Here are some products devised to make your office, classroom, and other spaces healthier and safer while still remaining functional.

Transparent Shields and Physical Barriers

One of the top solutions to enforce social distancing and minimize contact in the workplace or classroom is installing transparent shields. You’ve likely already seen them at stores in front of the register, at the gym between machines, and at restaurants separating tables from one another. Offices and schools are using the shields to build makeshift cubicles, separating coworkers and students from one another without having to rearrange the furniture or disturb the layout of the room.

Enwork offers a number of these types of shields to choose from as part of their COVID-19 Rapid Response. They offer two different types of freestanding screens: the Latitude, which stands vertically and comes in a number of sizes; and the Zori, which comes vertically or in a T or L-shape in two sizes. Both styles from Enwork are available in clear or frosted acrylic and are perfect for dividing up pre-existing workspaces cleanly without much fuss.

Latitude by Enwork is a terrific option for breaking up large spaces such as student unions and offices.
Enwork’s Zori is another option for freestanding screens and come in a variety of screen types from completely frosted to partial and without frosted panes.

Privacy panels from Evolve Furniture Group are also a great option to maintain the existing structure of your space but comply with CDC recommendations. They’re available in horizontal or vertical configurations, and can be fully transparent, frosted, laminated, or fitted with fabric to provide privacy. There’s even an option to have a whiteboard attached for added function. The panels can be sectioned off as well, meaning you could have multiple material options appear on one panel. These particular shields are a perfect blend of healthy and functional to make an excellent addition to any office.

Evolve offers a wide variety of privacy panels as well to break up large areas.

No matter what space you’re trying to modify, Groupe Lacasse is bound to have what you’re looking for. Their Luti freestanding screens are incredibly versatile and can be used in a number of different configurations. The Luti also divides shared work spaces such as a computer labs as well as individual spaces including students’ desks at school or reading chairs in a library. The Luti is available in clear or frosted glass as well as more than a dozen different wood and color laminates.

Luti freestanding screens by Groupe Lacasse also offer options for breaking up groups of desks for reducing the spread of germs in the office or classroom.

Social Distancing/Flow of Traffic Signs

Having markers on the ground where people should stand in order to properly social distance from one another and arrows directing which way they should move about any given space to reduce overcrowding is a simple solution to a big problem. In the face of a pandemic, having signs posted around a room reminding people to social distance, wash their hands, wear a mask, and avoid touching their faces can also be helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

You can get all of the signage you need from COVID-19 information to directional signage and more from 2/90 Sign Systems. Their “Back to Work” product offering includes interior and exterior floor decals, window signs, protective barriers, custom signs, and printable messages that can be healthcare specific or geared towards the general public.

2/90 Sign Systems offers signage products for the ground, walls, and freestanding signage to remind workers, students, and guests to social distance, wear masks, and wash their hands.

Easy-to-Clean Surfaces

Now more than ever it’s imperative that all materials your office furniture are made of easy-to-clean materials. Although the CDC claims the virus is less commonly spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, it’s not a bad idea to sanitize shared items and personal workspaces multiple times throughout the day.

For desks, countertops, and tables, a smooth and seamless design is best. These will be easy to quickly wipe down with a disinfectant and the lack of nooks and crannies will give you peace of mind that you haven’t missed any spots. A good example is the Iconic desk from Indiana Furniture, which is inspired by the 1950s and ‘60s mod aesthetic.

The Iconic Desk from Indiana Furniture is another option for keeping office workers faced in opposite directions to reduce the spread of germs.

For upholstered furniture, it’s important to keep in mind what cleaning products can be used on what fabrics so as not to ruin them. Arc-Com has a fabulous tool on their website where you can choose any EPA-approved coronavirus disinfectant and it will tell you which disinfectant is safe for use on their upholstery options. They also maintain a separate list of bleach-safe upholstery you can easily access for reference.

You can even upholster or reupholster furnishings in new fabric that is bleach-safe for easy cleaning and disinfecting with a variety of patterns from Arc-Com.

Outdoor Workspaces

Another place you should remember to consider when designing your space to be more COVID-compliant is your outdoor spaces. Outdoor spaces are a great option for allowing employees space to work, eat lunch, work in small groups, or socialize if the weather permits.

Meeting outdoors is also a great option for schools, particularly universities. Getting fresh air and having a chance to actually meet and chat with your coworkers or fellow students can be great for morale and creativity, which can be an added boost to overall productivity.

If an outdoor workspace or classroom is something you’re interested in putting together, look no further than Landscape Forms. Besides tables and chairs, they can provide outdoor power solutions, sunshades, and lighting for your open air office. They have a special section on their website called “Healthy Outdoor Spaces” which provides information on products including hand sanitizer stations, carousel and wedge tables, innovative delineated space solutions, and so much more.

Landscape Forms offers a number of options for healthy outdoor spaces as well to allow people even more freedom for social distancing while at work.

If you are interested in updating your office, classroom, or other public space in accordance with CDC recommendations, contact CORE at (520) 999-3470 or visit us online. Our commercial retail specialists are here to answer all of your questions and assist you in rebuilding a safe, healthy work environment that benefits everyone.

Adapting Public Spaces for COVID-19