The curveball of the coronavirus is the worst medical disruption the world has seen in over a hundred years and has seemingly directed its anger towards the heart of the medical world, and pathology laboratories have seen the crux of it. But the question remains—alongside the slowly dying remnants of the disease itself—what will the new normal be? Join the discussion.

The agile workspace, a fruit of the emergence of the post-GFC design revolution, was evolving into a dynamic system, and pathology certainly jumped on the global bandwagon. Pathology laboratories evolved from clunky and inefficient spaces to the dynamic workspaces of high-efficiency outputs we know today.

But following recent events pathology labs have hit the brakes and slowed to walking pace. Physical restrictions—social distancing for example—have pushed aside the agile workspace. What occurs now is a question—is the office space essential? Same for pathology.

What has happened?

The global experiment of remote working has taken place, but whether the conditions will pay dividends is yet to be seen, as professionals continue to predict more waves, as we are seeing in the South Americas, Russia, other developing nations, and… Victoria? Pathology is seeing a direct hit from this ‘phenomenon.’ Australian pathologies have stood down hundreds of staff due to a halt to many diagnoses, and even if laboratories are receiving COVID-19 testing work, this makes little effect to the drop in revenue.

What will happen?

If we return to normal, the scene, like the post-Twin-Towers period, will be different hereon. Pathology laboratories will be reluctant to return to an agile ‘shared’ space. The agile principle of sharing equipment, desks, and indeed an entire workspace, may not match exactly to the paranoia of social distancing rules. Office space likewise—for large pathology sites, office space plays a crucial role and may slowly move away from the agile workspace.

Where to now?

Take the measures to ensure your transition to normal (if ever) in the pathology lab is as smooth as possible. There are several considerations you should make in view of keeping safe as possible while utilising your space as much as possible. Pathology has not just slowed but is harbouring a huge backlog of testing. Going ‘back to work’ will be abnormal: hugely busy but sluggishly cautious. Space will inevitably need to be adapted to ensure that the workspace is safe as possible. Westlab’s principle of lean, time- and cost-efficient processes and laboratory design will drive your pathology forward.

Practically, you should adopt ergonomics, motion efficiency and cleanliness as your primary consideration. With modular furnishings such as Modulab Connect —Westlab’s flagship product—this is achievable: you can manipulate or adapt your laboratory layout to suit the circumstance.

Motion efficiency will allow you to make the most of your space, while interacting with colleagues sufficiently to allow maximum productivity. Another way to ‘lean up your lab’ is to eliminate waste. Archive unused documentation et cetera, or even better, work towards going paperless. In a post-COVID world, this is as essential as the staff themselves in working effectively. Communication is most definitely enhanced as well as the ability to safely interact.

Minimising the spreading of potential disease is achieved thus: not exactly by working remotely per se but more by convenient communication, easy content sharing and the likes. Essentially, it declutters and cleans up your lab in an easy step to today’s definition of a safe workspace.

Take this advice and you will find the lab not only paying long-term dividends, but also allowing you to provide for practical measures such as sanitation. Lab efficiency is a priority in the post-pandemic pathology process.