How intelligent solutions can make offices both safe and efficient

Nici Hills

Did you know that hexagons are the most efficient packing system? It covers the plane with shapes of the same area while minimising the length of the boundary, a result known to honey bees long before it was proven by Thomas Hales in 1998. For round coins on a table, it’s another hexagonal packing, like a tube fit snugly into each cell of a honeycomb.

When it comes to packing humans into an office, the aim is not to simply fit as many people as possible into one room but we can transfer some of our knowledge of packing in a plane. Government advice for COVID secure workplaces includes a two metre separation between workers, or one metre with risk mitigations. This means each worker in an office space must have a non-overlapping circle with a two metre diameter around them, very similar indeed to our coins on a table! You might have already seen the hexagonal packing in action – leaving alternating desks in each row and shifting the gap for each row gives precisely a hexagonal arrangement.

As well as which desks to use, it is also important to consider how to use these desks. Personal desks do not require as much cleaning as collaborative workspaces but are much less flexible. They do not allow workers to change their environment to suit the task at hand and since desks near each other cannot be used at the same time, this restricts which workers can come to the office at the same time. Furthermore, space on site could be better used for meetings and group work which cannot be done from home.

It is this flexibility that has meant that collaborative workspaces are on the rise, with many companies shifting towards creating separate areas for different activities, from larger meetings to focused individual work. Washington post does this visual analysis of office designs. However maintaining such collaborative workspaces coming out of lockdown would require regular cleaning and are not permitted when hardware is being shared. They also make tracing contacts more difficult and smaller enclosed spaces for small group meetings may not be viable all together.

One solution is to pre-assign desks for a set time period, then clean the desks between each session. Small groups can apply together, so that they are working together when they need to be, and contacts can be traced through the booking system. While automated systems are mostly in place for booking meeting rooms, expanding this functionality to cover every desk and every room requires innovation. However the benefits of getting such a system can be huge. Through intelligently generated desk allocations, staggered arrival times, scheduled cleaning and social distancing while working can easily be implemented while keeping the work process simple and effective.

In these rapidly changing times, smart solutions are more valuable than ever for better and safer workspaces. Check out our products at Visitor.Express to see how the latest software can improve your business today.