Adapting and Carrying on in the “New Normal”

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How wayfinding plays an important role in keeping things going in a pandemic

The emergence of spring, with new life breaking ground, can often provide a fresh outlook on things that previously felt bleak.

The pandemic is no exception.

The trajectory and impact of the pandemic has not been easy to predict. The various phases of the pandemic, and its unpredictable nature, has meant that we have all had to make a lot of adjustments. Now the final restrictions are lifting we have entered another new phase and, with it, a new perspective and more adjustments.

The pandemic is not over, but we are now living with it.

We’ve noticed how this change in perspective is influencing our work and how wayfinding can play a key role in helping people live with the “new normal”.

Masters of adaptation

Society has moved from a response of “stop, sit tight and see what happens” to “keep calm and carry on (with adjustments)”.

Over the course of the last two years, we’ve all had to become masters of adaptation.

For us, a big impact has been how we carry out site visits. With the rules on travel changing regularly, it’s been hard to keep track. International travel to Ireland has presented hurdles that we’ve had to jump through. And domestic travel has also had its difficulties.

And our clients have had to adapt too.

Through our work we’ve observed changes taking place across universities, in commercial spaces and on our high street as they’ve had to find safe ways of carrying on (rather than staying away).

Wayfinding has an important role to play in helping people carry on. Importantly, though, it’s not about marching on without a thought for safety or perceptions, but moving forward in a way that is empathetic and caring of others.

Using wayfinding to keep people safe

Working with healthcare providers has given us a fresh understanding of the reality that things really must go on, even in a pandemic.

Right on the frontline, hospitals immediately had to grapple with how to keep patients and staff safe whilst still functioning. They had to segregate areas for those with Covid whilst making it clear that the rest of the building is Covid-free. Not an easy task.

Now the dust is settling, we’re working with the NHS on a site that is about to embark on redevelopment works. For the duration of the project we’ll be devising temporary routing works because, of course, hospitals can’t close down whilst works take place. Patients and staff still need to be able to get to their destination with minimal disruption whilst also keeping them safe.

Using wayfinding to help people feel safe

It’s not just about keeping people safe, it’s about providing the right reassurance so that they feel safe too.

Although restrictions on hospitality venues have lifted, the pandemic has nevertheless changed the way we feel about indoor spaces. As we grapple daily with balancing risk, indoor spaces need to feel effectively managed.

Because good wayfinding focuses on user experience, it is crucial in clearly guiding users how to move around a building. Wayfinding can help reassure visitors that safety is taken seriously and that a building is “Covid secure”.

Using wayfinding to support building adaptations

We’ve also seen changes take place in the workplace. The use of office buildings is changing rapidly as more of us work from home, and many landlords are rethinking how public areas and circulation space can be maximised by reconfiguring and repurposing them as shared spaces.

Our client, Bruntwood, is one of Manchester’s leading landlords for city centre office accommodation. It has selected a number of its office buildings to undergo a transformation and diversify its offer to the public. The latest “pioneer” building, Bloc, now provides a yoga studio, coffee shop, community space and cinema room, as well as flexible office space. And others in the pipeline will provide safe recreation areas in the form of terraces and outdoor roof space.  

Adapt and carry on

The pandemic has shown us that even in the face of huge uncertainties and limits on our movement and freedoms, people and businesses are resilient. Up and down the country they’re taking up the challenge to adapt and carry on.

At Placemarque we have learnt to be just as adaptable. And it’s clear to us that wayfinding can be instrumental in helping businesses and communities respond appropriately to the “new normal”, so that we can all adapt and carry on.

Ultimately, whether in a healthcare, leisure or workplace setting, wayfinding is an important tool in helping visitors have the confidence that they are – and feel – safe and secure.

As we navigate our “new normal”, that’s more important than ever before.

If you think wayfinding might help you adapt your business or place to become more Covid-safe, get in touch.

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