How can telephone and meeting pods be useful in a social distancing office?
Over the last few years telephone and meeting pods have been a useful addition to office layouts, allowing flexibility as well as private calls and small meetings to take place without wasted investment in "built" constructions which will be lost when a company moves premises. Some of the advantages of these types of pods are covered in our earlier blog "Benefits of Acoustic telephone or meeting pod". With emphasis now on social distancing in every aspect of our lives WE have some clients that have questioned the use of these units in the current environment.
In our opinion these units are more useful than ever, but it does require a change in emphasis on their use as well as some stringent facilities management in how the units are managed.
One of the main issues with getting people back into the office will be managing anxiety about being in the workplace with other people. We can go into detail about these anxiety issues but we feel this has been well covered covered by Senators "Define My Space" document which you can see here. WE feel that by changing the emphasis of telephone and meeting pods away from meetings and instead using them as private workspaces gives staff the security of knowing they are in a safe environment whilst still being in the office. They would not be constantly concerned about what is happening behind them and whether people are getting too close and would instead feel safer inside their work "bubble". Smaller telephone pods can be used for telephone calls or online meetings when required and mid-size units can be used as individual offices. At such a time as office layouts can get back to a more "normal" layout the pods can then revert back to being meeting rooms or call pods. This would of course save the costly expense and inflexibility of constructing individual workspaces with traditional stud wall that could end up in land fill once the crisis is over. Some examples of office pods and pods that can easily be adjusted to office use can be seen here.
The larger pods can still be used effectively for meetings, but with less people. For larger meeting pods that have been set up for larger number of occupants WE would suggest you remove 50-60% of the seating and use glazed screens on the meeting table if appropriate. Using the larger pods in this way would be more space efficient than doing the same in an open environment as the pod walls would effectively "have your back" with regards to protection and social distancing whereas a meeting space in open plan would need at least a 2m space all around it to give the same level of protection.
These advantages assume you are working with existing telephone and meeting pods but If you are looking to install new pods to maximise the effectiveness of social distancing in your office, then it is possible to go further still on ensuring staff safety.
There are some exciting new products available such as the telephone and meeting pods from Vetrospace which have some fantastic increased hygiene options. These pods were originally developed to help reduce Healthcare associated infections (HAIs). They are available in a range of specifications but the top level HEALTH pod includes photon disinfection lighting supercharged by titanium dioxide nano coating which results in the most effective antimicrobial and antiviral enclosed environment. Each pod is equipped with smart ventilation and high performance filtration to guarantee low CO2 level, particle free air.
The WiSDOM AiR antibacterial lighting destroys 99.9% of microbes safely and efficiently. The light is completely harmless to humans and materials. Unlike UV the light is non-ionising and has been tested by the radiation and Nuclear safety authority in Finland. The WiSDOM AiR system is controlled by a PIR sensor and so switches on when everyone has left the office giving the unit a good deep clean overnight. By stepping into the unit, the WiSDOM AiR blue light automatically changes to ANTiBAC clear lighting which is a more comfortable light to work in. ANTiBAC is a flicker free and energising pure white light. the precisely controlled spectrum of ANTiBAC lights are scientifically tested and proven to restrict the growth of microbes allowing the occupant to stay fresh, alert and focused on the task in hand. The HEALTH series pods are also treated with a transparent catalytic coating. This strongly amplifies the disinfection effect of the blue light and is capable of destroying VOC's, viruses and odours.
The standard Vetrospace units have a good range of sizes that are useful for the current requirements. The Phonespace unit is generously sized at 1.1m x 1.1m so the occupant does not feel too claustrophobic. Ideal for online meetings or individual work with a laptop. The Groupspace S, Groupspace M and Groupspace L would make excellent individual workspaces or private offices and the specifications can be adjusted to interchange glazed and solid walls if appropriate.
Even the larger Groupspace XL and Groupspace XXL units can be used for meetings for small groups of people, rather than the larger groups they were originally designed for. Just make sure they are only furnished with a limited number of meeting chairs and central glazed screens on the meeting tables could even be used.
But even with these new technologies and designs WE would still recommend that a strict hygiene regime is followed. The facilities team should instigate good hygiene protocols and cleaning if the units are to be used by different occupants. The Intelligent lighting, ventilation and materials used in construction of the units should be seen as additional tools in your hygiene armoury rather than a solution to what is a very complex problem.
But it isn't only these pods that can be used in a new social distancing office environment. Many of our existing popular pods can be still be used effectively as individual work areas as long as good hygiene regimes are introduced. If you are looking to introduce new pods to your workspace then there are some additional steps that can help this. For the upholstery you could use anti-microbial fabrics and treatments such as the Shield plus system from Panaz which has been proved effective against Coronavirus. For harder surfaces nano laminates can be used to increase the effectiveness against Coronavirus as well as laser fusion edge banding for a seamless edge and no glue (germ) line. Using a pod with a good quality ventilation system is also a must.
Of course as requirements and pressures increase on your existing office space due to social distancing and your attempts to provide effective workspace in an ever reducing amount of office square footage, you can always see what outside space you can utilise. Many offices have atriums, courtyards, roofspace or even car parks where it may be possible to take advantage of outdoor space by creating additional individual workspaces or meeting areas. our blog on Homeworking pods covers some of he outdoor pods available, such as the Office pod units, the Ornate garden pods or the Outdoor pod from The Meeting Pod company.
Finally if you have a specific requirement for the pods then we can always help design a bespoke layout for your product allowing you to achieve your particular goals. For consultations for example, you could have pods with multiple doors and a screen dividing the interior space. The consultant can enter from one side and the consultee from the other and they can have the privacy you would expect from a pod whilst also having the protection we all now need. The Cell pod range from Senator is ideal for this type of bespoke adjustment for example. Every requirement is different though so contact us about your particular need and WE will help you find the right product and layout to solve any dilemmas you may have.