The Return to the Office: Creating a Space Where Everyone Can Thrive

    • Creating a comfortable and inspiring work environment for employees will require flexible and customizable office solutions.
    • A workplace that prioritizes employee health extends past sanitary measures into office design and accessories for both on-site and remote employees.
    • Materials and design are key considerations with options like anti-microbial surfaces, hard-surface panels for high density areas, and technology-driven design for seamless collaboration.


Adaptability has been the name of the game for businesses this past year. The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, changing the ways we work, lead, communicate, socialize, and even take care of ourselves. As a consequence, our expectations for our ideal work environment have shifted too.

As we look forward to the future, business leaders are not only seeking to be more in-tune with their employee needs, they have to be. And that means being as informed as possible. We realize the amount of information on how important it is to provide a safe return to the office seems to be endless, but what does that really look like?

As a group who have dedicated their lives to understanding the ever-changing office space, we’re here to offer tangible solutions for making the transition back to the office a more comfortable and confident one.

Clean Up Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

First thing to come to everyone’s mind: sanitation. Cleaning measures may not be the most exciting element of returning to a shared workspace, but they are inevitable. Easy access to antibacterial hand gels, automatic doors, and sensor-activated faucets are all key design features that can not only decrease physical contact and reduce the risk of infection, but help your employees feel more at ease. Here are a few other office cleaning tips:

  • Educate all employees on proper cleaning practices of individual and community areas
  • Routinely sanitize all high-touch surfaces (tables, doorknobs, light switches, phones, keyboards, etc.)
  • Consider wipeable covers for electronics, and use alcohol-based wipes or sprays — containing at least 70% alcohol — being sure to dry the surface thoroughly afterwards
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Wear disposable gloves for all cleaning tasks and take care when removing them
  • Integrate sanitary products into individual work settings (i.e. personal caddies at desks to carry wipes and sanitizer)

For more information, check out our full Clean & Safe Office resources page.

Some Materials Are Better Than Others

In a collaborative workspace, carefully choosing easy-to-clean materials is key.  Everything we touch or share within the office is worth considering — some of which you may not even realize. Here’s a breakdown on the various materials and surfaces that play a role in the work environment:

  • Certain metals used for storage handles and drawer fronts have creases that can collect dirt, so consider replacing these items with laminate materials.
  • Anti-microbial properties that are being used to treat surfaces can also be incorporated into the furniture manufacturing process. They can be woven into fabrics used to upholster chairs and other high traffic surfaces or included in surfaces used for countertops and light switches.
  • Anti-microbial materials can be applied to steel or aluminum surfaces (i.e. faucets and door handles) as a protective finishing coating as these surfaces harbor and transmit significantly less organisms than a non-treated surface.
  • Swap out fabric tack boards with magnetic glass boards and replace soft seating collaborative areas with hard surface tables and chairs that can be cleaned easily or with antimicrobial, vinyl, crypton, copper infused textiles.

Customizing for Personal Comfort and Collective Success

Every office space has its own unique layout, and the freedom that comes with customizable workstations and accessories allows you to create the perfect design to suit your employee needs within that space. If your company will need to balance both on-site and remote employees in the near future, ensuring that your work environment facilitates communication tools and technology will be critical to enable employees in the office to easily and effectively collaborate with those at home. Here’s a little inspiration to get started.

Along with technology-facilitated work areas, there are countless office trends that will continue to increase in popularity due to a flexibility to meet individual needs in a shared space.

  1. Retrofitting adjustable handsets on height adjustable tables to enable hands-free use.
  2. Providing individualized storage units to establish physical boundaries between workspaces and ensure privacy.
  3. Adding hard surface screens to base panels of workstations to act as cough/sneeze barrier when standing. These ‘wellness’ screens have anti-microbial materials that allow for easy and repetitive cleaning without damage.
  4. Increasing the size of primary worksurfaces and rotating desks 90 degrees within workspaces to increase distance between users.
  5. Adding freestanding, hard surface space dividers in high density areas.
  6. Adding a drawer for keyboards and mouses when private stations are not being used by employees.
  7. Leasing versus buying furniture to offer employers the ability to easily make adaptations over time.

The Future of Work, Designed for You, By Us

Your mission is to create an office that not only works for every team member working there, but also those who aren’t. Creating a space that equips and inspires your company to do its best work no matter where they are is what our experts at Ethosource do best.  We’ll help you design an environment that supports your needs, from the ground up. Contact us to learn more about how you can start building the office of the future — today.