Navigating workplace layout and design in a post-COVID world

With millions of employees leaving the traditional workplace in March in the uncertainty associated with the COVID crisis, most employers started asking themselves, “Well, what about when we return to our offices?”

We all know that in the coming weeks and months, employers will be evaluating how physical workspaces are going to work in the immediate future, but also long-term. Physical distancing is going to be top of mind. Sanitation and disinfection is going to be critical. Ultimately, this is going to be about keeping our employees safe, regardless of what happens next.

As an organization, the team at Punchcard increased our virtual collaboration, developed new patterns, and continued to perform at our best, but one thing that we’ve definitely missed is the importance of physical interactions for creativity and collaboration.

Haworth, a company that focuses on workplace furnishings, released their Return to Work(place) resource, where they’ve outlined three key areas of focus for employers to think about when navigating getting back to our offices:

Employee well-being: How are we supporting people’s physical and psychological health to build confidence and enhance performance?

Organizational culture: How are we understanding and preserving our culture to empower our workforce and leverage our space in new ways?

Transforming the floorplate: How are we addressing facility requirements, density, and exposure while mitigating risk?

Considering the changes to our work styles

As we moved to our home offices (or for some people, home office/kitchen, home office/bedroom, or home office/living room/classroom), we had to change how we looked at performing our jobs. As we return to the office, the team at Haworth has prepared a list of questions to ask to view the situation through the employee lens:

  • What happens in the home office?
  • Will your employees be wearing masks?
  • How will your entrance and lobby look different (protocols and space)?
  • Will you be screening for temperature?
  • What are your protocols for cleaning?
  • What tools do you have so people feel secure?
  • How do you enhance employee comfort in the workplace?
  • How will circulation paths change?
  • Will your employees bring more items to work (lunch and supplies)?
  • How will your amenities change (cafeteria, refresh areas, outdoors)?
  • How will you communicate wayfinding, safety, and cleanliness?
  • How will you ensure physical distancing?

Considering the changes to our workplace design

When evaluating our return to the workplace, it’s valuable to be thinking about how we’re currently using our infrastructure, and how it could potentially change in the future.

Remote work

Determine total occupancy, which roles are optimal to perform remote work, and how it will affect the floorplate.


Communicate guidelines for cleaning and use of spaces, and switch out surface materials to accommodate cleanability.


Convey new protocols, shift unassigned spaces to assigned for individuals, and adjust workpoint configurations to accommodate boundaries between workers.


Analyze facility circulation to achieve appropriate distancing and re-purpose spaces to comply with physical distancing norms.


Provide physical and virtual solutions for personal interaction and team collaboration, integrating technology to connect on-site and off-site team members.

User Control

Provide individuals with a variety of spaces to safely accomplish their work, including options for mobility, flexibility, personalization, and cleanliness.


Publish supported platforms for communicating internally and externally, create protocols for communication, and utilize digital display for messaging/communications.

Building a plan

You can download Haworth’s complete guide to build your physical workspace plan at Return to Work(place).

Thanks to Bruce Alton for recommending this resource.

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