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The New Normal: Health 101

Putting returning employees' health first, while embracing the best practice principles of design in the workplace.



April 22, 2020

The New Normal?

It’s quite remarkable how quickly humanity can adapt to change when a crisis occurs. Even though we are traditionally creatures of habit, we have all had to step up and find a way forward. In order to protect our health, and the health of our families, we have been required to self-isolate or shelter at home. Our work life has morphed into our home life literally overnight as one seamless environment, without any planning or thought. This level and speed of change would have been unthinkable in a pre-COVID-19 world. Our habits and daily behaviour have changed drastically and will ultimately impact how we view the outside world once we return to it. Connectedness is dependent on Teams calls with colleagues, and expectations of success are altered to questions like “is it okay to stay in my sweats today?” or “how do I keep my dog occupied while in a meeting?”

Many of our clients are asking us what the way forward will look like, or simply, “what will the ‘new normal’ be once we return to the workplace?”

Health 101

The development of a healthy experience, starting at building entry and throughout all workplace settings, engagements and activities, is being thoroughly discussed given the current climate and the anticipation of the return to the office. Many of the procedures we have adopted in our evolving daily routines while quarantined at home can, and should, be easily implemented:

  • Providing hand sanitizer stations at entrances and all interaction points throughout the space.
  • Utilizing materials that impede bacterial spread throughout the space, such as nano-septic films and coatings on all touch points, or  copper/brass (inhibits bacterial growth) on hardware and other common surfaces, as the majority of diseases are transmitted via surface contact.
  • Treating or infusing seating fabrics with anti-microbial sprays to help discourage the spread of germs.
  • Upgrading building air filtration/purification, increasing fresh air capacity and overall air quality; access to operable windows is ideal.
  • Increasing frequency of cleaning protocols for all common areas, with a focus on amenity spaces and washrooms.
  • Providing hygiene tools for personal work spaces would also be optimal. This can include supplies for cleaning technology interfaces, disposable work mats for desk surfaces and low-height clear separation screens attached to worktops that will also move with sit-to-stand desks.

We can also promote a more connected touchless environment, that can be activated by phone through radio-frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth or near-field communications (NFC) for bringing IoT to life. Motion sensors, auto door operators, smart lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls, responding directly to individual needs, can also promote a bespoke experience.

Barry Nathan has over 30 years of experience in both architectural and interior design, which has given him an enviable understanding of two areas of practice. His work is comprised of both large scale commercial clients and complex public spaces, including higher education and high-rise residential projects. Alternative design approaches have allowed Barry to provide very unique and creative solutions for progressive thinking clients. His adeptness at problem solving via innovative solutions has helped many clients succeed in their goals. He is always challenging the status quo with an alternative view. Some of Barry’s past awards include the Design Exchange and ARIDO Awards for Pearson Airport, Denton’s Toronto and the Bell Wireless Centre in Mississauga. He is in the process of finalizing his Architectural License with the OAA and has memberships with the TSA and ASID.

Headshot of Barry Nathan

Written by Barry Nathan

Associate Director | Practice Lead, Interior Design
Toronto, ON
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