After several weeks of Covid-19 shutdown, many businesses are coming out of quarantine and negotiating a plan for getting back to work quickly and safely – without skipping a beat on productivity.

THE NEW SPACE RACE

It’s what we’re calling the rush to critically re-evaluate office terrain. Assessing how environments are currently being used and how might those spaces be re-imagined in this “new normal.”

Just like the original Space Race – it’s a competition to see who can win by being the fastest to firsts in a whole new age. Only this time, it’s about being the first to figure out how to reconfigure the workspace to incorporate physical distancing.

Whenever we are racing to make huge leaps and giant changes to our everyday lives, technology is at the forefront. Good old Technology – the true VIP of social distancing. Video calls, ordering groceries online, ordering everything online, working from home; It’s all made possible by technology. And this huge increase in working-from-home isn’t going away once stay-at-home orders are lifted. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by end of 2021.

Even with a larger number of employees handling business from home, about 75% of employees will be returning to work in a shared workplace. And, finding a way to bring them back in safely is a huge undertaking. This one can’t be solved with Zoom Meetings and online shopping. For these changes, we must get back to physical space.

Currently, the CDC recommends we give each employee 6 ft. of space and we know that’s the number one factor when it comes to re-configuring the workplace. It’s a game changer. The open office floor plan was designed around the idea of fitting as many people as possible in a collaborative work environment. Now we have to completely flip the switch – without sacrificing the connectedness of the open floor plan we’ve grown to love. And we have to do it fast. Byrne’s own Facility Manager, Dane, is dealing with this challenge right now.

“Real Estate is a hard thing to come by, so maximizing spaces to their full dimensions is critical. Getting more out of our physical space while creating an inviting and safe place to work is the ultimate goal.”

Needless to say, he’s been busy. Hard at work; researching and implementing creative solutions for maximizing space and encouraging safe, social distancing.

We’ve compiled a list of some quick-fix office reconfig ideas that can help you make the most of your space as employees start to return to the work place.

RE-CONFIGURING TIPS FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE OFFICE


From “we” to “me.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modifying Collaborative Space to work as Dedicated Space
Reclaim work cafés and walk-up meeting areas to create more permanent work spaces. Office design over the last decade has shifted to more common areas – more choice in where you can work. Because of that, these collaborative spaces often have more square footage in the floor plan than designated desking. Think of it as “we” space to compensate for less “me” space. For social  distancing, reclaiming some of this shared space is key.

Divide to unite. 

Adding Space Dividers to Create Physical Barriers
In the short term, we will see space being broken up with temporary dividers and partitions giving workers a sense of privacy and security. They’ll break up ancillary spaces to encourage smaller “huddles.” They’ll be used to promote privacy in an open floor plan. They come in a ton of different shapes, sizes and materials so they’re an excellent way to retrofit an environment.

Online is on target. 

Encourage video conferencing and other collaborative meeting platforms
Keep workers connected and productive – across the building or across the globe. More online meetings & working-from-home. What does that have to do with the physical office space? A lot actually. Remember the whole “dedensifying conference rooms thing” from number three? It means less of us can gather in a room and jump on a call with our work-from-home collaborators. It means we may have to join the virtual meeting from wherever we are. It means offices will need to provide more locations for video calls for smaller groups of people. Less in closed conference rooms and more out in the open.

Don’t be so dense. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Conference Rooms for a Less Dense “Shared Power” Experience
Currently, the CDC recommends we no longer gather in groups of ten or more. And there’s also the six feet rule that needs to be considered. A conference table that normally sat 8 people comfortable may only really work for 4 now. All of this means those large conference rooms that used to host big cross functional meetings may end up being used as storage for all of the chairs that have been removed from everywhere else.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE.


Capitalize on Outdoor Spaces for Added Real Estate and Healthy Distancing
The trend in working outside is not a new one. Millennials and GenZers have been demanding more outdoor spaces at the office for a while. Coming back to work after social distancing at home for months will surely heighten that demand. Being outdoors encourages physical well-being and mental well-being. And for many people, it’s been a huge factor in “keeping their sanity” during this challenging time.  Obviously working outside all day has its challenges – the weather, ergonomics, and the access to power too. But creating hardworking outdoor spaces for employees coming back to work will be much needed breath of fresh air.

PRODUCTS TO POWER PRODUCTIVITY

As employers quickly improvise facilities and furnishings for returning employees, power may be easy to overlook, but it’s one of the most critical aspects of any successfully re-imagined workplace. We asked Dane (our Facility Manager again), what kind of role power distribution plays in getting spaces ready for back-to-work.

“Having multiple solutions for power has allowed us to reconfigure based on social distancing guidelines, knowing we had products that could support the new floor plan. When you only have to focus on the physical dimensions, knowing power solutions are in your back pocket to solve most issues, it allows you to be creative in problem solving.”

DESKTOP ACCESSORIES
There’s no easier way to turn one wall outlet into a bunch of places to plug in. And, our mounting options make it easy to add power to any table style. Mount it under the table, on the table’s edge, or as a freestanding unit. But just because they were designed for the desk doesn’t mean they’re not powerful in other places too. Remember those divider screens we talked about? You can easily add power to those too.

 

POWER FOR A WHOLE ROOM OF TABLES
Interlink IQ allows you to connect power to up to 8 tables with just one power cord. That’s one outlet – providing power to up to 8 tables. And it can be rearranged whenever and put back together however you want. It’s also great for providing power for a long table so coworkers can spread out at a shared table, without sharing power too.

POWER AWAY FROM THE WALL
Coming up with room for everyone, re-purposing furniture, following new rules and guidelines – it’s a lot. But arranging workstations around access to power outlets doesn’t have to be complicated too. There are plenty of ways to bring power to where you need it – no the other way around.

MORE OUTLETS WHEREVER YOU NEED THEM
If moving desks or seating up against the wall is the best way to give coworkers the distance they need, you may find having a few more outlets   a huge help. With 4-Trac, add up to 13 duplex receptacles without making any cuts in the wall. And there’s no need to involve an electrician either.

SPREAD OUT ACCESS TO POWER 
Distributing power along the perimeter of a conference tables gives users their own access to charging so they aren’t reaching across the table or huddling close to shared outlets. Under-surface mounted power accessories are a great way to save valuable real estate on top of the table too. 2-Trac is a super low-profile DC power solution that easily offers multiple user’s their own place to charge up. Twine is a highly configurable branching cord solution that can definitely provide some distance.

OUTDOOR POWER 
Outdoor Vesta is a completely battery powered charging unit that includes enough USB ports to share with the team. And, with waterproof USB ports, it’s safe to leave outside all day. Rain, snow, or shine – just bring it in to recharge now and then.

THE POWER OF PRIVACY
Creating physical barriers is an excellent way to break up a space and give coworkers some personal space, but they can also break up access to power. So, depending on what the space is being used for, it may be important to take that into consideration. Combining divider screen solutions and power distribution makes  it easy to retrofit privacy anywhere, without skipping a beat when it comes to productivity. Twine + Solo and Fence (coming soon) are great power partners for the privacy panels you’re sure to be using a lot of in the future.

 

 

At Byrne, we’re electrical experts so you don’t have to be. If you have any questions about power as you work through your new office layouts, just give us a call, or send us your new layout. We’re happy to help.

More and more, companies are embracing open concept work spaces—areas designed around optimizing human interaction and collaboration. And for many people, this kind of dynamic, synergistic work isn’t very likely if workers are tethered against the wall. Looking to create an active, team atmosphere where people and ideas thrive? You’re going to want power at the center—and in the center—of those spaces.

WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

The question reminds us a little of the old bear hunt story. But unlike the children’s tale, when it comes to confronting the challenge of power in the middle of the room, you can actually go over it, go under it, or go through it.

Trenching

With this first option, you don’t just go under the floor…you really go under the floor. Trenching is just what it sounds like—cutting a trench in the concrete to support required power and cable management. With this approach, you’re going to want some pros on your team beyond the folks handling the concrete work. An electrician will need to run the conduit and a networking expert should handle the data connections. Because of the physical commitment involved, the best fit for a trenched solution is usually a new build or a significant renovation project.

 

Raised Flooring

For this solution, we’re still on the floor—just not quite as far down. In a raised floor application, power is run between the actual floor and a product that sits on top. Those few inches gained with a raised floor translate into a myriad of power and cable management benefits. Power is free to be channeled where it’s needed and floor boxes installed in the floor provide easy access points for pulling cables through. However, raised flooring can become a tripping hazard issue by creating different levels of flooring in a space. But a raised floor solution can accommodate a lot of power—perfect for work spaces with a high demand for tech support, as well multipurpose work areas looking for greater power flexibility. Like trenching, this solution probably makes the most sense as part of a larger renovation project.

 

Ceiling Power Distribution

Now, we’re headed over…with power that runs through the ceiling. In this solution, ceiling tiles conceal power and other cables supported by trays that run from the wall to the middle of the room or forgo the ceiling tiles for an exposed, industrial style. Once there, power drops from the ceiling housed in a pole or similar structure. Please note that because of the additional distance traveled from point to point, extended cable lengths are often necessary. And because this application requires several structural considerations—including the need for a dropped ceiling product (unless you like the look of exposed cable hardware)—it’s usually best suited for new building projects.

Furniture Power Distribution

Our final solution involves running power through portable or stationery furnishings with outlet receptacles mounted on or in the furniture. Corded or hardwired—both are options—they simply require connection to a wall or floor power source. And flexibility isn’t only about how things are wired here. Running power through furnishings also means higher adaptability because power units can be easily moved as space demands change. Ultimately, furniture power distribution is a great fit for existing or remodeled spaces that’s aren’t looking for a more permanent, infrastructure-based solution.

THINKING IT OVER

Regardless of the approach chosen, power distribution in any workplace is an important consideration and asking the right questions is sure to mean fewer headaches (and wasted dollars) as you move forward. So, here are a few issues to keep in mind as you consider making your own workplace a more dynamic and collaborative “center” of attention:

  1. How much money and time are you prepared to invest?
  2. How much power do people using the space need? How much data?
  3. How involved is the project—will an electrician or other experts be needed?
  4. Are you paying attention to safety concerns?
    • Avoid any opportunities for tripping hazards
    • Be sure to check whether an electrical permit is required for your project
  1. Have you explored all the design and power options for your space?
    • Stay open to the possibilities!