5 ‘New Normal’ Tips for Commercial Spaces
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how people live their lives today more than any other virus ever had. As communities navigate the “new normal,” businesses are reopening with updated protocols and a renewed energy.
As Dubai and the rest of the UAE embrace these new realities, the real estate industry is following suit. In fact, it has seen tremendous improvement after the lockdown.
New trends have emerged, including the rise of demand in rental properties. Even the delayed opening of the six-month-long Expo 2020 because of the lockdown led to something beneficial for the sector – it paved the way for real estate investors’ rekindled interest in Dubai.
To further drive this progress, commercial spaces also need to adapt. Whether you’re planning to buy a commercial property in Dubai or already have one that needs to be updated according to the new normal, here are five helpful tips you can try:
1. Go Touchless
Many buildings have motion-activated doors that slide open without being touched. Some companies have long implemented contactless keycard security access without the need for biometrics.
Touchless technology has always been there. The pandemic just opened people’s eyes and highlighted its importance to this era.
The new coronavirus and other germs spread by being left on surfaces by carriers or infected persons that other people also have access to. With things going back to normal, routines involving these communal items also return.
Since the risk lies in high-touch surfaces such as photocopiers, door handles, office supplies, and even coffee pot switches, the industry needs to adopt a touchless environment now more than ever.
Fortunately, touchless tech has come a long way since the invention of automatic doors. Commercial space owners now have more hands-free features to choose from that can be installed in various sections of a building.
Whatever your business may be, below is touchless technology you might want to include in your office fit-out and design:
- Motion- or sound-activated lights
- Gesture-activated faucets
- Automatic sanitizers and soap dispensers
- Touchless toilets and trash cans
- Foot-operated door openers
- Wireless phone charging docks
- Touchless vending machines
Besides ensuring health and safety, adding one or more of these features also grants your employees the peace of mind and confidence to work at the office.
2. Be careful with your Signages
After news of the pandemic spread globally, signages also popped up in almost every establishment. Many of these were written in all caps, boldfaced, and highlighted in red.
But while that worked in the early stages of the pandemic, it may not be the best solution now that people are trying to embrace the new normal. This means that alarmist signages may not be the best way to spread the word about how to prevent the spread of the virus.
Try putting yourself in the customers’ shoes. Will you want to enter a store with signs that imply danger is lurking inside?
Aside from reducing foot traffic, this may also affect your company’s image and have long-term negative effects on your brand. If you switch to something more welcoming, you can allow people to remain calm while still staying vigilant.
Architecture and design experts believe that instead of “visual shouting,” signages should reinforce the message of hope and create a sense of community.
This means that these signs should be sending a “we are in this together” message rather than one that says “follow this or suffer the consequences.” It should tell people that wearing masks and keeping a safe distance is not just for their own safety, but for other people’s as well.
It’s not just about the words and the tone used in signage, too. The typography and choice of colours matter as well.
While red may be eye-catching, it often signifies danger and risks. Consider using a more positive colour like yellow and match it with less alarming typography.
Simple changes can make a big difference.
3. Implement an effective wayfinding signage system
To avoid exposure as much as possible, people need to know where they are going – or, at least, the general direction they should be heading.
This is where wayfinding can come in handy.
Besides using carefully designed warning signs, commercial spaces with innovative and integrated wayfinding solutions also make it easier for people to stay safe. Yes, digital wayfinding’s primary goal is to bring people together, but it also aids in information dissemination in a cost-efficient manner without sacrificing efficacy.
4. Get as much space as possible
Social distancing remains the most recommended anti-COVID protocol around the world. This means you have to choose an office with enough room to achieve the recommended two-metre distance between people who need to use the same room.
Plan for every aspect of your business and (with wayfinding in mind) consider how much space each unit would need.
For example, if you’re a retail company with a display area set up in your commercial space, you need wider aisles and a larger area for queues on the checkout counter. Also, choose a commercial space ideal for creating an efficient entry and exit point to ensure social distancing.
If your company does a lot of collaborative work, you may require a bigger conference room to accommodate more people during meetings. Make sure the seats are separated with enough distance based on health authority recommendations.
If you don’t have the luxury of getting a new space, you can make more room by opting for an open layout. This may sound counterintuitive, but an open layout actually reduces the number of surfaces that may harbor the new coronavirus and other germs.
Also, keep in mind that company lounges should provide fewer opportunities for communal gatherings. This doesn’t mean you have to ban employees from going there altogether. All it means is that you must:
- Minimise chokepoints and create more wide-open areas; and
- Discourage loitering with sparse and separated seating areas.
The key is to assess the needs and goals of your company first before choosing a specific setup.
5. Divide office space and conquer (the virus)
If the previous tip doesn’t apply for you, you may also choose to return to the traditional cubicle-based office design for your business. This would work if your employees spend most of their time at their desks, especially if you put up dividers or individual pods for each of them.
Remember that you have to curate the furniture into a pattern that supports multiple entry points and allows movement while still providing a safe space for your employees. Isolated workstations work well in giving employees a sense of protection as they return to their duties.
Business as usual in the new normal
Even as post-COVID realities have changed the norm, it’s business as usual for everyone, including the real estate industry.
Implement the tips listed here to make sure your commercial space is ready to transition to the new normal.