How screens can help create a safe yet productive workspace

Screens are being talked about a lot at the moment as an effective way to create a safe and COVID-secure work environment. The addition of desk and floor screens in the office is one of the simplest and most obvious ways to separate work areas.
However, the right partitions also offer numerous long-term benefits, making them a worthwhile investment for any office-based company. As well as providing a physical barrier, office screens give each employee more privacy at their desk and absorb some of the surrounding noise: two of the biggest complaints about open office spaces. With smart choices, the right screens will be an effective solution to a number of office problems.

Distancing and space

It is not necessary for offices to look stark and sterile in order to provide effective social distancing. Desk and floor screens are already a common sight in workplaces. While Perspex prevents any droplets from passing through and is therefore more suitable where there is very close contact, fabric partitions also provide an effective barrier. A simple improvement to the workspace would be to separate each workstation in a bank of desks by placing screens around the whole desktop. Additionally, placing floor standing screens between desk areas and walkways ensures people leave more space while moving around the office. Not only do these changes reduce the risk for each employee but they also allow for more personal space – a big win in an open office.

Privacy

Lack of privacy is one of the biggest complaints about open offices and it can make a big difference to employee productivity and engagement. This may be visual privacy, i.e. not feeling like someone is watching over your shoulder all the time, or acoustic privacy, i.e. not being so easily overheard. Providing the right level of privacy allows for greater focus and also demonstrates trust. Screens are an effective way to address both of these elements.

The addition of desk screens can help employees "get away" without being physically removed from the workspace. By separating one workstation from the next, you give each person a space of their own. This helps to reduce sight-induced distractions and gives each employee more control of their own workspace.

You can also use floor screens around a sofa area or meeting table to create small enclaves and convert a corner of the office into a spot where people can go to seek out a quieter and more private workspace.

Acoustics

Noisy workplaces have been shown to increase stress and reduce concentration levels. According to a 2017 Sodexo study, 51% of workers claim that reducing unnecessary noise is the single most important factor to improving their effectiveness at work.

Acoustic solutions such as screens, wall panels and ceiling hanging panels are designed to reduce overall noise levels by absorbing noise reverberations. A desk screen with sound-absorbing properties makes a big difference to the soundscape and is one of the simplest ways to reduce background noise in an open workplace without making major changes to the office layout. It blocks off some of the noise from colleagues working nearby and creates a more secluded and private work area. Plus improving acoustics works both ways, acoustic floor screens can create a "room within a room" casual meeting space where teams can collaborate without worrying about disrupting others.

Style

Screens are also an easy way to change up the décor in your office space and add a splash of colour. With the right fabrics and colours, they can modernise the office and transform the workspace. You could opt for company colours or a calming grey or green. Choose one uniform colour throughout the office for cohesive look or mix and match for a livelier atmosphere. In an open office landscape, fabric office screens provide a softer look that can make the space seem less bare and more homey. Desk screens can also make the workplace look neater by hiding the back of computer monitors and preventing items falling down the back of the desk.

Whether you’re returning to the office for the first time post pandemic or simply looking to improve working conditions, office screens offer a simple and effective way to transform the workplace and improve safety, privacy and noise levels in a smart and inobtrusive way.

As part of our Return to Work series, AJ Products has shared advice on how to ensure the workplace is safe for employees to return, how to implement hybrid working and the best ways to support employee mental health. Follow us as we continue to share other tips on how to optimise the workspace post pandemic.