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DEPARTMENT OF AWKWARD SOLUTIONS

We’re about to re-enter an office full of half-baked design prototypes

A staff member wearing a face mask sits in her office behind a protective plastic barrier at a flemish secondary school during its reopening in Brussels, as a small part of Belgian children head back to their schools with new rules and social distancing measures
Reuters/Yves Herman
DIY social distancing.
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Forget the pristine, perfectly designed office. As businesses around the world begin to reopen, many workers will find a mess of masking tape, plastic sheets, police tape, floor decals, and a host of half-baked design solutions in the name stemming the spread of Covid-19.

Plastics manufacturers are already advertising ready-to-ship coronavirus office solutions, from face shields to acrylic isolation booths and plexiglass cubicle partitions. Sneeze guards—transparent plastic sheets common in restaurant buffets—are in particularly high demand.

Last month, the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield introduced “The Six Feet Office,” a set of guidelines to help businesses reconfigure their workplace with social-distancing rules in mind. The concept includes unusual new practices such asking employees to use disposable desk placemats each day, or requiring everyone to only walk in a clockwise pattern around the office.

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