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Workplace Design in Post-Pandemic Times.

on the qt

Throughout history, how we design and occupy physical spaces have been key components in managing disease. The COVID-19 crisis is no different, creating an unprecedented set of physical restrictions that will change workplaces forever. Operational safety, social distancing and hygiene are the prevailing concerns as workforces return to work alongside an ever-present threat of coronavirus transmission.

With health protocols mandating greater separation in workplaces via spatial, physical, and temporal means, innovative design solutions are needed to create spaces that enable collaboration, focus and rejuvenation, while meeting the basic need for health and safety. Products such as, Orangebox’s On the QT, an acoustic phone booth that facilitates connectivity in a hygienic private workspace, have emerged to give flexibility and breadth of function.

Based in the United Kingdom, Orangebox is a designer and manufacturer of furniture for the changing workplace that supports a contemporary aesthetic with a focus on wellness and productivity. This solution-driven brand offers a pluralism of design choices with alternatives to traditional seating, architectural pods for visual and acoustical privacy, and new collaborative configurations.

Orangebox recognises the human element when designing COVID-safe environments. More than merely placing desks two metres apart, workplaces must encourage positive behavioural changes and trust between colleagues. “While coming to understand social distancing protocols, there emerged a common theme of dread, negativity and reduction,” says Nathan Hurley, Research and Insight Manager at Orangebox. “We wanted to change that narrative and be more uplifting while being as safe as possible.”

Orangebox has produced The Hula Hoop Office – a platform to deliver architectural solutions for a pre-vaccine workplace. Based on a 1950s craze, The Hula Hoop Office helps everyone understand and adhere to the new protocols, providing a clear, visual representation of what safe social distancing looks like; the one-metre hoop around employees creates the mandatory two-metre distance required by COVID-19 safety protocols at all times.

Accompanying behavioural recommendations, such as traffic flow protocols and the use of personal work equipment, Orangebox’s Smartworking products facilitate this new workplace paradigm. As one such solution, On the QT addresses the health concerns of today’s workforce while providing an ergonomic, flexible workspace ideal for evolving workplace arrangements.

On the QT booths achieve the perfect balance between phone or video calls and quiet focused work, with stand and sit configurations that accommodate a multitude of work styles. Delivering high levels of speech privacy, air circulation, and access to lighting and power, On the QT delivers both comfort and function. Hard, non-porous touch surfaces provide for easy cleaning and disinfection, reducing virus transferability – a key requirement in these pandemic times.

“We believe On the QT hits a unique efficient footprint sweetspot for private individual connectivity. The short sit booth has enough comfort and acoustic privacy for great quality-focused video calls in a new landscape that will be more heavily populated with collaborative settings and reduced desk space,” explains Mark Partridge, Design Manager at Orangebox and On the QT’s lead designer. “Small booths create safe havens for those who are nervous about returning to work and create manageable easy-to-clean boxes that could even facilitate a ‘ready to clean’ signal straight after each use.”

While other pandemics have faded from memory, COVID-19 is set to make uncertainty the new norm. “We used to talk about the workplace changing every two years, now it’s month by month,” muses Partridge. “On the QT is not and cannot be just a phone booth, it’s a flexible space with enough bandwidth to facilitate new ways to connect, to cater for positive improvements in technology emerging from this pandemic …”.

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