Get All Access for $5/mo

What Our Socially Distanced Workspaces Might Look Like The architecture firm Gensler created an app to help businesses repurpose their spaces.

By Frances Dodds

This story appears in the July 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Gensler

In 1931, in the midst of the polio epidemic, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier finished his famous Villa Savoye, on the outskirts of Paris. When you walk into the building, the first thing you see is a stand-alone ceramic sink. Todd Heiser has been thinking about that sink a lot lately.

"It encouraged people to have good hygiene," he says. "Moving forward from this pandemic, I think we're really going to see a refocus on zoning and what happens when we come into a space."

Heiser is a co–managing director of the Chicago office of Gensler, a global architecture firm that has created a data-driven tool called ReRun to help businesses reimagine their offices to accommodate new social distancing guidelines based on their individual space, staff size, and advice from the CDC and the WHO.

Related: The Surprising Ways Your Office Design Shows You Trust Your Employees

"Depending on what your space can absorb, you may only want to bring back 25 percent of people to the office," Heiser says. But capacity isn't the only concern. Some clients are worried about open floor plans, while others are just as fearful of enclosed spaces: Doorknobs have become the new enemy.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Gensler

"We've been hearing that many of our users don't want as many doors on rooms," Heiser says. "So we're actually creating something that's a mix between an office and a workstation. We're calling it an "officle.' Or we'll pull the doors off a conference room and use that as an additional workspace."

Related: Peek Inside the Mind-Blowing Offices of the Most Successful Startups In History: Spanx, Uber, Warby Parker and More

Heiser envisions a future that will embrace facial recognition technology to grant touch-free access to workspaces, and anticipates a refreshed demand for automatic doors, intuitive elevator systems, and even infrared temperature sensing. He knows that remote work will be a big part of our business culture moving forward, but he mostly feels optimistic about the future of the office and how employees exist within it.

"This pandemic has created a new sense of essentialism," he says. "It's made us value the power of human connection, and also to ask, What do we really need? Why do we need to go to an office? We're probably going to realize we don't need some of the things we thought we did."

Frances Dodds

Entrepreneur Staff

Deputy Editor of Entrepreneur

Frances Dodds is Entrepreneur magazine's deputy editor. Before that she was features director for Entrepreneur.com, and a senior editor at DuJour magazine. She's written for Longreads, New York Magazine, Architectural Digest, Us Weekly, Coveteur and more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Living

Taylor Swift Has a Lucky Number. And She's Not the Only High Performer Who Leans Into Superstitions to Boost Confidence.

Even megastars like Swift need a little extra something to get them in the right mindset when it is game time.

Marketing

SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.

Career

These 3 Big Tech Companies Offer 6-Figure Salaries and Easy Interviews — Especially If You Follow This Expert's Advice

There are far more candidates than positions, so being strategic on the job hunt is key.

Health & Wellness

4 Habits I Cultivated to Become a Healthier, More Effective Entrepreneur

By the time I hit mid-life, some of my bad habits were becoming a risk to my long-term business goals — and my health. Here's how I was able to change them.