Living Through COVID-19: Turning Commonplaces Into Safer Spaces

The world was introduced to the “new normal” of doing things with the fears brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a blink, people have been forced to build habits in order to be protected from the virus. While vaccines and advanced medical protocols are being practiced as professionals are more acquainted with the virus, it seems like it will take a while before things will be back to normal.

A year later, the world is still battling the sickness. People are still required to mask up and social gatherings remain discouraged. If going out is not necessary, staying at home is the safest option.

Most of us have spent a big chunk of our lives last year in our houses. This has led many to recognize the need to turn their rooms or homes into work or school-friendly settings. However, quarantineor isolation fatigue has taken its toll on many people.

Before the pandemic, people would bail out of their social gatherings or meetings to have a relaxing night at home. But spending too much time indoors can be suffocating for some. Now that restrictions have eased, more people spend time outdoors for their much-needed space.

It is undeniable that COVID-19 is changing the way we see our indoor spaces. Crowding is now a thing of the past. As health protocols are to be considered, residential buildings, offices, hospitals, schools, and other public places have implemented contactless technology, physically-distant layouts, and appropriate airflow in the said locations.

Home and building designers, engineers, architects, and business owners now seek the help of environmental psychologists and sociologists when considering these changes in their spaces. Environmental psychologists are professionals who study how humans interact with built and natural environments. With the need to adapt to the new normal, these professionals work together to see how these places, particularly apartment buildings, offices, stores, and schools can be modified or converted to safe spaces. You will also need the help of these people if you are planning to move into a new house.

What is a safe space?

wearing facemask beside workarea

As schools and workplaces are slowly reopening, a priority for establishment owners would be to gain the trust of those who visit. Dealing with an invisible enemy could cause one to feel fearful and anxious even in a familiar space. As such, there is a need to convert commonplaces into safe spaces.

A safe space is a place where a person can feel confident that they are not exposed to physical harm, harassment, and discrimination. While this definition still stands true to this day, there is now a newer meaning to the term. A safe space can also mean a place where people feel safe despite a constant threat to their health

Some examples of a safe space in the time of COVID-19 would be an office that has implemented a one-seat-apart layout or a library with windows wide open for better air circulation. When people see that a location where they once felt safe before the pandemic has implemented changes that are adherent to health protocols, their hesitation of visiting again becomes less. While this will encourage people to spend more time outside their homes, they will do so with caution.

Converting a commonplace into a safer space

How can commonplaces be converted into safer spaces? Converting to a safer space is not that complicated. However, these changes have to be well-thought-out and must prioritize the safety of the public.

Psychologists take note that entering familiar spaces can instill feelings of trust and control. Seeing that these locations impose health precautions can also intensify one’s feelings of security. Changes like the presence of barriers or having one-way zones can ease a person’s worries of getting infected.

These changes do not have to be grand. In fact, there is no need for a total office or building makeover. Minor changes like imposing improved ventilation and physical distancing can address the public’s worries regarding safety.

It is important to note, however, that these new and physically-distant space setups will not instantly draw people to normalcy overnight. Upgrading to a safer space should not be used to encourage people to let go of health protocols. It works alongside other factors like psychological strategies and health measures that truly uphold the safety of the people.

Experts recommend for people to be empowered to modify their space in small ways. This may include allowing an employee to open their door or window when needed or by giving them access to a nearby outdoor space. These visually-stimulating changes help ease the stress of those who are in the said space.

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