The Office Space: An Altered Sphere Post-Covid

October 2021

Take a deep dive into how international crisis alters collective behaviour, and therefore design, in the office space Post-Covid.

As Europe begins to emerge from the ashes of the pandemic era, LTP looks to history to understand how international crisis alters collective behaviour, and therefore design. Elizabeth Moen forecasts likely changes in the interior design of our office spaces.

Understanding Productivity

The ‘modern office’ as we know it, was birthed from the push for increased collectivism after the second world war. The previous Taylorism era built staunch hierarchy into its linear rows of long benches, discouraging interaction. However, the war brought into focus the importance of social cohesion in a functional society, expanding the concept of what is ‘productive’ for a workspace.

The altered requirement of workspaces moving out of the pandemic presents what is seemingly a contradiction in terms: In-person social interaction is essential for productivity, but the spatial restrictions of our current interiors encourage the spread of disease, which of course, is not productive at all!

In the same way that the grouped seating introduced post-war, was used to create different patterns of movement and interaction, the new office will look to disrupt the rhythms of hive movement in its design. LTP expects to spend more time customising office spaces to reduce linear footfall and break up usual gathering areas. We have already seen an increased use of furniture for standing meetings, allowing the individual more freedom to choose the space between themselves and others than with traditional board tables.

two people working by a stand up desk while standing on a balance board
The picture is from

Trusting the Space

The consideration of how to build protection into interior design was brought to public attention in the 1960s, with the influx of women into the worksphere. For the first time, partitions to provide partial shielding became the norm, so that women could concentrate without feeling on display to the men in the open-plan office. Desks with front coverings were introduced on request from secretaries, to hide their legs from view.

Such adaptations in furniture design reveal its importance in building trust between an employee and their workspace, representing an employer’s care for their workers’ comfort and work satisfaction. If employees are to return to the office, then trust in the environment must be rebuilt, in a place now associated with infection risk.

Forecasters predict therefore that wood will become a preferred material for refurbished offices, due to its natural anti-bacterial properties, and ease of cleaning. LTP has high hopes that more clients will opt for FSC certified wood, bringing consideration not only to a hygienic work environment but also supporting the world’s effort to keep our ancient forests intact.

Flexible Workplace = Flexible Workspace

Two people sitting around a table and working

If a tried and tested method of configuration is to be successfully conceptualized in an altered way, multiple elements need to click into new harmony together. For example, the new sociable post-war offices brought about new challenges in managing noise levels. The innovation that followed: echo dampening, cork-paneled ceilings.

The pandemic has had an accelerative effect on a cultural shift already, tentatively, taking place: using technology to support flexible work locations. Many companies have decided to down-size on desks as they emerge from lock-down, opting for a booking system of attendance. Thus, the adaptability of the space will become key for a cohesive working week.

Creating areas adept at hosting different combinations of people, on different days, for a variety of tasks, brings about challenges in both acoustics, and ease of reconfiguration. LTP is anticipating that modular furniture and movable acoustic paneling, are likely to soar in popularity. This should allow employees to mould the space to their needs each day, bringing dated, rigid floor plans up to speed.

Finally: Raised Social Awareness  

This exploration of changing office working conditions, cannot be effectively concluded without considering the working conditions of those manufacturing the components, and the materials used. If the well-being of working people in both the supply chain and result are not equally considered, then it isn’t a functional design.

Intense supply chain disruption during the pandemic has had an impactful effect on public awareness around issues of ethics and destructive consumerism. It was already predicted that as we continue to encroach on forests and the natural world, humans would be exposed to new deadly diseases not yet mapped by pathologists. Meanwhile, the disregard from corporations for the wellbeing of supply-chain workers, during the pandemic, has made international news.

About the content writer, Elizabeth Moen

Elizabeth works with sustainable textile sourcing and CSR Strategy, at Closed Loop in Copenhagen. Her interests include anything in the intersection of design and sustainability.  

About LTP Group

LTP’s work is and has always been, rooted in social and environmental responsibility. We see that the pandemic has helped to accelerate awareness; of the impact of environmental destruction, and the human suffering caused by careless choices. What we hope to see, is decisions in design responding accordingly, and compassionately.