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Will Coronavirus Kill The Open Office Floor Plan? Not Likely, Expert Says

Yuri Kageyama

Workers across the country will be returning to the office over the coming weeks and months. But the CEO of one commercial real estate company doesn't see dramatic changes in the workplace.

Jonathan Wasserstrum of says looking ahead for office design has to include a pre- and post-coronavirus vaccine.

Without a vaccine, he says offices will have to adapt. "There's going to be a bunch of protocols put in place - social distancing; elevator protocols are going to feel different. It remains to be seen how people deal with the two-person conference room that's the size of a big phone booth. They'll probably get less use next week than they did."

COVID-19 hasn't killed the open office floor plan, Wasserstrum says. "I think what you'll start to see is companies will divide up their workforce. You'll have the Monday-Wednesday office team, and the Tuesday-Thursday office team. The benefits/costs, the pros and cons of the open office haven't changed."

Some offices may have to change layouts to put more distance between desks. "The people who really like it will continue to like it going forward, and the people who hate it will find another reason to hate it," he says. "In two years, I think we'll still see a lot of them. In the next couple of months, they're going to look and feel a lot different from how they're used on a day-to-day basis." 

Wasserstrum says he doesn't really see a return to office cubicle farms.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.