Goodbye unisex loos? one good thing about going back to the office post Covid-19

Unisex loos

Hot desking is likely to become less popular as a result of COVID-19, according to a new thought paper by the British Council for Offices (BCO), the representative body for the UK’s office sector. The paper outlines how the workplace may change as a result of COVID-19, and how Britain can safely return to work in the coming weeks and months.

The trade body has also signalled the demise of gendered communal toilets in favour of  pod-based ‘superloos’ that feature touchless doors, taps and soap dispensers

Written by the BCO’s Technical Affairs Committee, a group of industry experts, the paper notes that “desk sharing is likely to become very unpopular”, however the practice remains possible if desks are frequently and intensely cleaned.

You can also read: What does office life after lockdown look like?

The paper states the importance of hygiene and the need to adhere to social distancing whilst the virus is still active within society. Ideally, the paper states, offices will feature adaptations that allow for Britain’s new reality, including: the introduction of screens to protect receptionists from potentially virus carrying visitors and the replacement of gendered communal toilets with pod-based ‘superloos’ that feature touchless doors, taps and soap dispensers (Business & Innovation Editor: this is very welcome. I didn’t like gender communal toilets AT ALL).

For those who can cycle to work, an increase in bike storage is also on the card, with workers likely to ditch public transport’s commuter crowds in favour of cycling.

Other measure could include limits on the number of people that can occupy a space, use a meeting room or share a lift at any one time, an end to communal cutlery, coffee pots and water bottles and the adoption of ventilation and humidification systems which create environments that make transmission tough for viruses.

The paper also speculates on the introduction of tech-based ‘smart solutions.’ Workplaces might introduce “apps for location-based reminders to use hand sanitiser, to wash hands, or to clean desks, laptops and other technology devices,” while more “’out there’ apps” could monitor face touching.

Neil Pennell, Chair of the BCO Technical Affairs Committee, said: “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on how we work. While we do not know when we will all be back in the workplace, it’s important to start planning ahead.  Adaptations can ensure that the risk of virus transmission is reduced and can accommodate our new reality, enabling us all to gain the real benefits that come from working in an office while ensuring we are safe.”

Danny Parmar, Chair of the BCO Midlands and East Anglia Committee said:“BCO’s guidance notes are very thorough and have been informed by industry experts. Building owners and occupiers need to take heed of this advice in preparation for when lockdown is relaxed and we are allowed to get back to our offices. The workplace will remain an important collaboration base for businesses large and small.”

The paper, titled ‘Thoughts on office design and operation after COVID-19’, is free to BCO members and non-members and available to download now.

The BCO is providing guidance and thought leadership throughout this period, including webinars and online events. The organisation has launched ‘New Normal’, a YouTube series that features the thoughts and predictions of renowned experts and industry figures.