Jun 10th 2020

Social distancing by design: elegant solutions for the post-pandemic workspace

John Stein

Whether you’re a designer, an architect, or a business owner, the preliminary reopening of office spaces is likely posing as many questions in your mind as the initial closure did. Not the least of which is: how can we make workplaces safe, without compromising the collaborative, inviting spirit we’ve worked so hard to create? It’s not a simple task. But on the bright side, it is a rare and worthy challenge for professionals in both your field and ours.

The potential solutions are vast, varied, and mostly untested: from rearranging desks and meeting rooms, to reassessing ventilation systems and use of windows, and even introducing less virus-prone materials like copper, there’s much to be considered. The most appealing (and in many cases, financially viable) are those that can be implemented quickly without immense cost, offer flexibility in terms of implementation, and could remain useful for the foreseeable future. Since they’re both cost-effective and easy to implement, it’s not hard to see why partitions are at the top of that list.

At Kirei, we’re inspired by what has always motivated us and our customers: clean, human-first design. We have faith in the role of elegant, modern solutions in supporting well-being not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too. And we want to help designers, installers, and building owners creatively serve both the moment and the people who find themselves in it.

So somewhere between the Plexiglas cashier shields and the threat of archaic cubicle systems, there’s space for true invention — and an invitation for creativity. The task at hand: reimagining spaces to conjure a sense of security and safety, yet support collaboration, connection, and the free flow of inspiration. After all, without those things, what would be the point in having an office at all?

A flexible solution: free-standing partitions for healthier environments

When we say healthier, we certainly do mean protection against contagion — but we mean much more than that, too. You’ve likely sourced partitions many times to create privacy and clear thinking, improve acoustics, or enhance the aesthetic appeal of a space. From a design perspective, it’s an added benefit that is now a tool for health and safety, too.

Naturally encourage social distancing and minimize overcrowding.

Partitions can naturally guide behavior and influence the way people engage in a space. Consider the behavioral changes needed in the time of social distancing. How can the use of partitions help facilitate that?

A desk partition may discourage a neighbor from leaning over to whisper in your ear. A partition around open-air seating can create privacy and as well as intimate collaboration. A partition at an entryway or hallway juncture implies a queue, which can be reinforced by floor markers.

Flexible and customizable structures support dynamic needs.

Freestanding partitions offer a low-cost, minimal-impact way to shift habits and workstyles without fundamentally changing the space. They’re easy to assemble, customize, or move as needed.

For offices that are currently open air, or companies that prefer open models, aesthetically attractive and flexible partitions create “microenvironments” that feel less confining and more like a design element than a true necessity.

Sustainable, eco-friendly products ensure minimal impact on health and the environment.

At Kirei, we’re firm believers that solving one problem should not, in turn, create another. That’s why all our EchoPanel design elements are made from recycled products. EchoPanel has successfully recycled 200 million+ bottles into beautiful architectural elements, and our Ecospecifier GreenTag Compliant products ensure low VOC emissions, promoting clean, healthy air in workspaces.

Easy-to-clean materials support health and safety protocols.

With cleaning at the forefront of everyone’s minds — and especially in commercial or office spaces — it’s important to source materials that can easily be wiped down. Our EchoPanel product line feature materials that are easy to clean as often as is necessary.

Wrap partitions. A modern solution to traditional cubicles, the EchoPanel Wrap Partitions can be used to create a subtle barrier between desks or to enclose a seating area. They’re easy to assemble, and you can easily add or remove panels, so there’s space to explore what works best for employees. Companies may find that these offer the added benefit of enhanced productivity, thanks to sound absorption and reduced visual distractions.

Open space enclosures. A simple, zero-construction method to create substantial-feeling walls anywhere in the space. With a product like EchoPanel Paling, you can easily enclose an open-air seating space or funnel foot traffic down a specific hallway or encourage social distancing in an entrance or triage queue. Since they’re temporary and easy to disassemble, they can always be removed as health and safety standards progress.

Queue control partitions. Whether it’s a cafeteria line, a preschool pick-up, or a triage for a grand entryway, partitions like the EchoPanel Platoon encourage social distancing while guiding traffic flow. Design cut-outs allow for some visibility, which prevents stagnant air, overly restrictive barriers if someone is waiting in a queue, or a sense of being cut off from others.

Mounted sliding screens. To enclose doorless workspaces, reinforce distancing in certain spaces, or temporarily divide large rooms for multi-functional use, try mounting EchoScreens on a sliding track. For full inhibition of airflow, consider fitting plexiglass to the screen.

While reimagining modern workspaces presents a challenge, free-standing partitions — especially eco-friendly ones — rise to it with a flexible, design-friendly tool that supports a healthy, happy place to work.

We encourage you to explore our entire eco-friendly acoustic partition collection, and to reach out if you have questions. As always, we’re here to help.

Interested in receiving samples of any of the above products for your own project?

If you’d like assistance deciding which partitions will best serve your project needs, contact your KIREI rep today.