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The Importance of Gathering: How to Keep Breakrooms and Communal Spaces Safe when Returning to Work

The Importance of Gathering: How to Keep Breakrooms and Communal Spaces Safe when Returning to Work

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

A large part of r.o.i. Design’s success is our collaboration and engagement with each other. So naturally, we are looking forward to our return to the office after the stay-at-home quarantine. 

While gatherings are being scrutinized, we know for many groups, being together adds a level of performance and creativity that can’t be achieved otherwise. 

So, what can teams do to make safe gathering engaging and enjoyable?  Here are some ideas from our customers and peers:  

  • Create an outdoor breakroom with the appropriate distance between chairs. That may mean clearing some space and putting in a temporary railing to give the area a sense of space. Outdoor furniture and accessories, including a fire pit, umbrellas, space heaters, and bug repellents could be added.
  • Stagger breaks and the use of breakrooms so fewer occupants are present at one time, allowing for social distancing.
  • Remove some of the chairs, so people are spaced apart.
  • Post interesting facts about co-workers and the company in the breakroom to encourage staff to leave their desks. 
  • Run games in the breakroom to create friendly competition between shifts. 

One of our customers removed the breakroom tables and brought in two ping pong tables for people to eat at, meet at, and of course, play ping pong. They created circles on the floor to help folks visualize safe distances.

A more extreme change was by a medical customer who hung clear shower curtains in the space to create “booths” to maximize the use of their cafeteria. They reorganized seating to allow for wide aisles that lead to the booths. The reports are that folks are sitting in adjacent booths so they can still have a conversation during lunch. 

Another group with more than 50 employees agreed to stagger its in-office work schedules. They removed cubicles in order to create a much larger open space. They populated the open area with chairs, physical therapy balls, and lounge seating positioned six feet apart. In those areas, large monitors are being used to engage with others, who may be working from home that day. They plan to move people back altogether before the fall. 

For more information on why it is important for people to gather and how the pandemic is challenging our mental health, read the best selling book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, by Priya Parker.

“The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, in both our intimate and public realms. Gathering—the conscious bringing together of people for a reason—shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world…” 

Creating Safe Spaces

Creating Safe Spaces

Over the past few weeks, our team has been learning how to make our spaces safe for the return to work, visits to doctors, and trips to our favorite retailers. We acknowledge solutions presented by suppliers and manufacturers that impact our work in interior design; their products influence our spaces from the air we breathe to the chairs we sit on. Read on to see some of what we’ve learned regarding COVID-19 protection measures and visit our Facebook page throughout the week to get our full take on these solutions. 

AIR QUALITY

A building’s filtration in its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) can be a part of an overall mitigation approach to protect occupants from COVID-19. To reap the full benefits of an HVAC system, cleaning and disinfecting HVAC components, including ductwork, installing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters, and increasing outdoor air ventilation are critical.  

WALL COVERINGS AND OTHER SURFACES

We also pulled research on the longevity of the COVID-19 virus on commonly used wall covering materials, and how to effectively eliminate the virus on these surfaces. Today’s manufacturers are integrating antimicrobial technology into interior design elements to keep them cleaner from multiplying bacteria – window shades, paint, door hardware, and faucets. Additionally, the addition of UV lights for more deeply disinfecting the office at night could help to keep walls and other surfaces cleaner. 

Wall Coverings

TEMPORARY WALL PARTITIONS

In addition to pre-existing wall surfaces, temporary wall partitions find relevancy, especially in open offices, to help ease the spreading of viruses. While plexiglass, laminate, or another hard surface has been preferred, those surfaces must be frequently cleaned. Not all fabrics are a good option for the surface of partition, those that are coated or are made specifically to repel moisture would be best. And, while not as attractive, cardboard has been tested and it may be that the virus lives less on cardboard than on plexiglass. 

Temporary Wall Partitions

UPHOLSTERY

Presented with the problem of maintaining upholstered surfaces in high-traffic and shared spaces, our fabric manufacturers have risen to the challenge and provided, and continue to seek, solutions for safe fabrics. Referencing the EPA’s recommended products for disinfecting, our fabric manufacturers quickly pulled together their resources to help educate us on which materials perform best in an environment that will not require excessive cleaning. Coated fabrics, vinyl, and Crypton meet these standards for cleanability. 

Crypton Upholstery

PERSONAL PROTECTION

Beyond innovations for public and private spaces, the design community is contributing to the solution for your personal space – personal protection equipment. We’ve seen manufacturers and design firms shift their resources and brainpower in response to COVID-19. Fabric manufacturers and independent designers are using their resources to create face masks, and many donate face coverings for each mask purchased. 

No one solution protects us completely and it will be a combination of behaviors and tools that gets us through this time. We look forward to more virus testing, and then, of course, the vaccine.  

Custom Furniture: A Feasible Delight

Custom Furniture: A Feasible Delight

Custom Furniture: A Feasible Delight

Can’t find the perfect board room table? Need a storage cabinet that looks like a piece of furniture versus a laminate box? Want a custom-sized sofa? Need to incorporate graphics into custom pieces? We can help.

r.o.i. Design grew out of the furniture industry and we continue to design custom furniture as part of our interior design services.

Ryan Bright, Creative Executive, has a degree in furniture design and met r.o.i. Design when he was a design intern for Widdicomb Furniture in 1999. Since joining r.o.i. Design he has designed many custom pieces for our customers.

Mary Witte, Owner and Creative Lead, owned a custom millwork company, Designers Workshop, which was purchased by Widdicomb Furniture. There she continued to design custom millwork and furniture and was acknowledged by the industry with an award from American Home for her designs.

Ronda Geyer, Procurement and Product Manager, coordinates our furniture vendors to make sure custom pieces are delivered and installed as designed.

We have maintained relationships with custom furniture makers and finishers that we met through our experience as furniture makers and still use today to fabricate custom pieces.

Some of our recent designs include:

From concept to installation, r.o.i. Design delivers custom furnishings fulfilling our promise to provide Budget, Brand, and Beauty.

Lighting for Commercial Interiors

Lighting for Commercial Interiors

Lighting for Commercial Interiors

Custom Pendant Lights at Wolverine Dermatology

An interior design’s success is dependent on how it is lit. Identical finishes lit in two ways will appear totally different. r.o.i. Design has been asked to create initial lighting plans more frequently in the last two years than ever before. There is a growing understanding that the selection of finishes works hand in hand with the lighting.

Our design criteria for lighting is emerging as we increase our understanding of LED (Light Emitting Diodes) and the opportunities to customize decorative fixtures and interior architecture using LED.

Our success in lighting design has been based on some assumptions:

Different types of spaces need different lighting effects and light levels

  • For people to feel comfortable in an office space, lighting should reflect nature in that 1/3 of the light is direct, 1/3 of the light is indirect and 1/3 of the light is reflective. Taking natural light (or the lack of) into account is critical.
  • In a retail space, it is important to direct the eye by creating a greater variety of light levels from walkways to displays and to checkouts. Retail lighting is more theatrical and uses hot-spots to direct customer attention to merchandise and wayfinding.
  • In a restaurant and hospitality setting, customer transaction areas need to be well lit but customers are comfortable with a more dim environment. It is common for wall art, displays, and perimeters to have brighter accents.
  • For a professional medical space, waiting and nonmedical spaces need to have different levels of light and different options of light levels for patients to choose what makes them comfortable, while the surgical and medical spaces tend to be more consistently “bright”.

Using decorative and custom light fixtures to enhance brand or design scheme is well accepted

  • Decorative fixtures add to the décor, but also add interest and in many cases “ease” the user.
  • Lights need to be experienced at a variety of levels and locations within a space. Occupants aren’t comfortable with a light source that is close to their reach if it’s just a square box of emitting light. We like the light closest to us to be friendlier and have character.
  • LED lighting is very flexible, and almost anything can become a light fixture; an object that holds a light, expands the light or just carries the light. This could be a reception desk, a cove, a pane of glass, the reveal of a wall, a planter, or a decorative object.

Exploring the opportunities in color temperature and light levels

  • Behavior is impacted by light, and in the case of LED lighting the color temperature and intensity of light has specific effects on people.
  • Giving users options to use all or none of the lighting in an office space has been proving to create employee satisfaction.
Collaborating on Furniture Design

Collaborating on Furniture Design

Collaborating on Furniture Design

For r.o.i. Design, furniture is integral to the design. Quite often we have the opportunity to work with our customers in selecting and designing the furniture and furnishings in their space. This is important to us because it elevates the design to a very personal level, where people are touching, sitting, and experiencing the design in visceral ways.

When we have spent the effort to help a professional service client create a welcoming, branded feel in their interior, sometimes it requires a non-typical office furniture solution.

When we have worked diligently to create a restaurant, lobby, or corporate space that wants to look like a hip restaurant, the furniture may not be able to be compiled from standard options. Thus, we have provided specialty services around furnishings for our customers.

  • Often, we have been engaged to work with one of many of our local office furniture providers to advocate for our customer, consulting on furniture styles and finishes.
  • We design custom furniture and work with our customers to find the best resource to create those pieces.
  • Recently we have been working with fabricators experienced with integrating technology into furniture, creating medical and professional desks.
  • We have created many custom conference table designs, exploring finishes and details to create an ideal meeting and conference environments.
  • There is also the need for furnishings that look residential but need to be contract-grade. Providing contract quality guarantees for wear and maintenance.

We have also designed procurement programs for developers, working directly with manufacturers to be able to design, select, purchase, and deliver common area furnishings for multi-family facilities.

Furniture has a functional and aesthetic responsibility in commercial interiors and planning for appropriate furnishings take intention and focus.

West Michigan Dermatology – Holland, MI
Park East Court – Grand Rapids, MI
Bonchon Chicken Comes to Grand Rapids

Bonchon Chicken Comes to Grand Rapids

Bonchon Chicken, Korean Fried Chicken & Wings, is an established restaurant franchise in many metropolitan cities around the U.S. Now West Michigan has one right here in Grand Rapids!

Pinnacle Construction, in their retail development of Knapp’s North on the East Beltline, attracted Michigan franchise owner, Randell Ganchua. Randell was looking to open his first of many Bonchon restaurants on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids.

Pinnacle Construction engaged r.o.i. Design to help design the exterior façade of the retail development as well as coordinate the interiors for Bonchon. Using established standards, r.o.i. Design created furniture plans, lighting design, finish selections, construction documents, coordination with kitchen designers and advocacy for the owner.

Bonchon had their soft opening in mid-November, and the reviews are great. We look forward to their continued success and expansion.

For more about Bonchon, go to bonchon.com/grand-rapids-mi.