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Social Distancing and the Open Plan

6 min November 3, 2020

Employers and their teams are facing a new reality, one that requires different behaviors and protocols. How we plan our workspaces could be a race back to the cubicle, or we can try a more human-centered approach and bend space to people.

Planning the protective workstation

The C9 Desk and Rail are the building blocks for buffering people, one to another, in the open plan. Distinguished by a 4-leg height adjustable desk and a power rail that bends space to people, C9 creates generous distancing at the workstation. And as needs change, the freestanding components can flex (no tools required) to increase or decrease density.

The 4-leg desk supports a slim, but very strong steel frame and the tubular legs naturally create the four corners of the user space. The desk's pendant storage may be used for personal tools and files while keeping the body pocket (the space below the desk) open and feeling spacious. The storage also acts a space buffer between users shifting each person to the right or left.

C9 desk
C9 workstation

The Promise of the C9 System

There is workstation flexibility and then there is C9 flexibility. Groundbreaking for its 4-leg adjusting desk and groundbreaking for the power rail that bends from 0-90 degrees in either direction -- all patent-pending and award-winning -- C9 bends space to people. By breaking free of traditional grid planning, C9 allows the office environment to flow more organically.

Inspired by the open plan studies created by the Quickborner Group in 1950s-era Germany, Watson's C9 Power Rail designer, Ethan Pearl, sought to divide space differently. Each rail segment is connected to the next with an articulating joint to provide an individual workstation that is generous and unique, whether arrayed as benching or perpendicular to the rail. Add-on elements to the rail, like privacy screens, lighting, and small tables help to build spaces tailored to the individual. Our insights in space planning showed how a C9 6-pack could be mirrored, flipped, and rotated to feel different, yet familiar. Then, when change occurs, it's not so disruptive to the humans at work.

C9 plan bend

Social Distancing and C9 Space Planning

Once the number of residents is determined, the planner can design the pod of workstations to be explored. The desk with a pendant or trolley storage beneath the surface can be used to frame the personal zone, then desks set at 90 degrees (Plan A left) naturally keep individuals apart.

Mirrored layouts with varied height privacy screens in COM healthcare textiles or Watson fabrics create a topography that is variable and includes levels of privacy or porosity so enclosure is thoughtfully defined.

C9 90
C9 rail screens
C9 75
C9 Managers

Every Bend Has  Story

With the C9 Rail set at 75 degrees (Plan B)), workstations flare open slightly increasing the space vector between users. And with a 15 degree bend (Plan C), a resident manager stays at the desk and engages from that distance with the teammate at the teardrop table. Practicing new behaviors, C9 can help individuals stay 6 feet apart using furniture as the metric.

Teams and a New Workstation Topography

We are required to work differently in the presence of the COVID19 virus. Distancing ourselves from one another in the office runs counter to our socialization. C9 offers one possibility to create a work environment that separates people without complete isolation. The C9 system builds a new topography with screens, lighting, accessories, planters, and storage that creates a welcome, but safe harbor.

The C9 Workstation is now available through a sales representative in your area.

Space Division with other Watson products:

  • Here's a quick space divider fix for any worksurface. Check out the Acrylic Side Screens that are available to clamp onto any 7/8" - 1-1/4" surface - download here.
  • See our Bahn Office system with desk screens and spine screens in acrylic or easy to clean markerboard non-porous laminate. 
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