Coronavirus pandemic

Stagger hours, increase cleaning: Experts

Workers in the central business district may not be able to go out to lunches in groups as they used to. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Reduced density, flexible work arrangements and more frequent cleaning are some immediate practices that employers can implement in their offices as Singapore gradually reopens its economy, said design and architecture experts.

Dr Sing Tien Foo, director of the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies at the National University of Singapore, said those who go back to the office may wear masks and face shields, coupled with more regular disinfecting of work stations to keep up hygiene conditions.

He said: "Staggering work hours and having staff on different shifts could also reduce the risk."

Dr Jeffrey Chan, assistant professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design's (SUTD) humanities, arts and social sciences faculty, said some habits ingrained in the office workplace culture here may also be immediately impacted.

For instance, workers in the Central Business District may not be able to go out to lunch in groups as they used to, and some may choose to eat alone.

Dr Chan, who specialises in design theory, said the coronavirus pandemic has turned what was "once very desirable office real estate", such as skyscrapers with good views and climate-controlled environments, into "high-risk zones".

"Most, if not all, of our grade A offices are mechanically ventilated (via air-conditioning).

"Many offices also reside deep within tall buildings that do not have operable windows," he said.

Instead of relying on air-conditioning in an open-plan office which recirculates air within a confined space and could potentially be a way for the virus to spread, experts say more thought should be given on how best to introduce natural ventilation back into office buildings.

Dr Yeo Kang Shua, associate head of the architecture and sustainable design pillar at SUTD, said: "Architects, planners, engineers and policymakers have to rethink the way we view office spaces. There might be more commercial buildings that have naturally ventilated common circulation routes with air-conditioned units (in the future)."

Mr David Calkins, regional managing principal of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at global architecture firm Gensler, said: "The future is going to look like touchless everything - from lifts and doors to bathrooms and lights. Essentially, a frictionless space where people won't have to touch anything to make something work."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2020, with the headline Stagger hours, increase cleaning: Experts. Subscribe