Forward-looking: Many countries hit hard by Covid-19 are starting to ease their lockdowns, but life will look very different from the pre-pandemic world. Shops, bars, restaurants, all will have social distancing and safety measures in place for the foreseeable future, as will offices, some of which could adopt a pod system for workers.
As US employees start returning to the office, many businesses have social distancing policies that allow only 50 percent of staff in a building at one time. It's likely to have a negative impact on many firms, but a system called Q.worknite could let more people occupy an office safely.
The concept comes from Egyptian architect Mohamed Radwan, and it's already won an award in the Responsible Design category at the DNA Paris Design Awards. The work area looks like the kind of cubicle you'll find in any office, except it's enclosed in an air-tight hexagonal body.
The structure is made of a non-porous material that's can be easily cleaned/disinfected and is sealed by a handless, acrylic door. It opens using facial recognition, meaning there's no need to touch anything on entry. There are ventilation fans with built-in air purifiers on the roof, along with a skylight to make occupants feel less claustrophobic.
The shape of the pods allows them to be arranged in hives that can be placed in any office space. They come in different sizes, with some able to fit in 90-degree angles and larger 'management' pods available for executives.
"With the world under lockdown for an extended period of time, some essential businesses still has [sic] to keep at least the bare minimum of its workforce, working physically on site to provide necessary and vital supplies for the health supply chain," reads the Q.worknite website. "And the longer the quarantine continues, more companies may be forced to do the same, as shortages will hit the global market."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that offices keep desks six feet apart or, if not possible, use plexiglass shields. The pods could be a safer solution while allowing maximum capacity in a building, but users could feel isolated and trapped inside them, even with the large skylight.