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Coronavirus In Pittsburgh: Expect Things At Your Office To Look Different When You Return To Work

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- No one knows when employees in the Pittsburgh region will be allowed to return to work.

When workers do return, expect things to look quite different at your office.

Jenn Pavlik is an interior design team leader for Pittsburgh's DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design.

A lot of her time lately has been spent considering how things may be different for her clients when people return to the office.

"It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach," said Pavlik.

Pavlik has nearly 20 years of experience in the commercial design space.

"The very first thing is going to be understanding the organization and what challenges they have. And also, how their employees feel about the COVID-19 situation and how they feel about returning to work," Pavlik said.

That may mean the days of open floor plans with wide-open team workspaces could be shelved for some time.

Carnegie Mellon alum David Roth owns The Downtown Design Company in uptown Pittsburgh.

"There has always been a lot of controversy about these open offices and whether or not it's a good environment for people to concentrate," Roth said.

He cites the new computer programming building on the campus of CMU as an example. It has no open spaces – just closed rooms.

As companies start to reopen, Pavlik says businesses may need to repurpose their space.

One of the big questions she says is "How can you still allow collaboration and some free-flowing thoughts and ideas but create partitioning for social distancing?"

Roth points to a plan introduced by architectural giant Gensler that suggests assigning employees specific days when are allowed to report to work. That means far fewer people physically in the office.

Some companies will lean heavily on work-from-home-solutions.

That means they need to have serious discussions about permanent upgrades to their IT infrastructure.

"What were your difficulties connecting to the internet? Was your bandwidth strong enough?" said Pavlik. "Things like that are being asked in these programming sessions for companies in the commercial and corporate workplace."

Expect the changes to be made in phases as companies concentrate on the safety and well-being of their employees.

Roth believes people will be added slowly into office spaces as we have a better handle on COVID-19 treatments and medical solutions.

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