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Uncertainty surrounding the timeline and cultural adaptations of “the new normal” continues to swirl around the minds of the global working class. Displaced workers are stretching and sacrificing their domestic domains to continue working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, employers such as private corporations, governments and not-for-profit organizations are beginning to plan for a modified workplace setting. It is now a common notion that the Novel Coronavirus has forced our society to plan for physical distancing and mindfulness of cross-contamination in the workplace once return-to-work guidelines are released for each respective region.
The DesignClass Coronavirus Design Competition challenges participants to “design a way to help people stay healthy; both in body and mind”. Based on personal experience and conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, I propose a pop-up flexible workstation which can be shipped, assembled, and stowed. The premise of my design is that a dedicated home office space is not economically accessible to many working-class individuals. In my one-bedroom apartment, I share a 30x60” desk space with my girlfriend, alternating days working from the couch at my summer student position. Recognizing my fortunate position to have found summer work, I believe that investment in employee mental and physical health is quintessential for employers as the work environment continues to adapt.
I propose a design for new workstations which would fit into both an employee’s humble home, as well as an office modernization. The transportable and stowable desk and seating combination includes a murphy desk and folding A-frame legs. The seating component is mounted to an acoustic wall and features retractable privacy screens which would each help to reduce household distractions and create a dedicated workspace. Seating and seat back elements would be comprised of non-absorbent fabrics, for easy cleaning using disinfectant wipes. The privacy screens are intended to be translucent and durable, blurring the line between isolation and active involvement in household activity. At the end of the workday, the seat is designed to be rotated and/or pushed back against the folded-up desk for use as either secondary household seating or a whiteboard. The entire assembly occupies 40 sqft when in use, and only 13 sqft when stowed.
Immediate investment in at-home workstations is justifiable to employers, as the design could later contribute to a modified seating arrangement. In most cases, physical distancing measures will be enforced, and telework schedules may be adopted to minimize the number of employees within an office space at any given time. This means that workstations will need to be unassigned and disinfected between uses. Recent trends of flexible and unassigned working environments have proven to be successful within many North American corporations, as well as within the Canadian federal government’s GCworkplace design guidelines.
The basis of this design is for employers to invest in an at-home workstation which improves employee well-being and can be reused upon return to the conventional office environment
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