Touchless Environment in a Physical World: The Workplace of the Future

“Approximately 80% of common infections are transmitted by touch. That means that germs are probably spread every time you touch something in the office.” (Staples, 2020). What if we lived in a world that was designed to be “hands free”, where every door would open at the wave of a hand, and every light would flicker on when you walk in the room?
The COVID-19 pandemic opened our minds to a realm of possibilities when it comes to the workplace of the future – a touchless workplace. Though more touchless features have been implemented in building designs in recent years, we now see these functions moving to the forefront of future buildings. People are envisioning ways to make the workplace safer and healthier, and this is a significant way to do so. Design Collaborative identified several spaces in a workplace that could be adjusted to create a more “touchless” environment. Here we discover opportunities for automatic door access, hands free restroom experiences, touchless sensors, and more.

It is no surprise that doorknobs and handles are on the top of the list for spreading germs rapidly – almost everyone grabs the same exact place to yank open that door, and it ends up gathering germs from the last ten people who just did the same thing. "We touch a lot of different surfaces that hundreds of others might be touching," says Kelly Reynolds Ph.D., professor and environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona.
In the same place you would expect an ADA push plate to be located near a door, touchless sensors can be installed. Touchless plates have “wave to open” capability, allowing doors to open with the wave of a hand. LED illumination around the edges of the plates can increase visibility for the plates. There are touchless sensors that are compatible with pneumatic door operators and card readers to keep the same level of security in place while providing the touchless experience.
See an example of a touchless door sensor here.
Another type of door to consider is the elevator door, but there are more buttons to consider than just an open and close button. Waving at the elevator door sensor to open will not take you to the correct floor or press the call button if you need it. There is now technology that will allow you to select any option in the elevator from your phone. You can also have a secure elevator system, with the option to send a “guest pass” to visitors’ phones if they want to use the elevator.
See an example of a touchless elevator here.

Another place we touch several times a day, along with our coworkers, is the light switch. Already implemented in many workspaces to help reserve energy use, motion sensor light switches can cut down enormously on the spread of germs. This upgrade is one of the simplest ways to add to a touchless environment and reduce the use of unnecessary power.
See motion sensor light switches here.

Soap & Faucets
Already vastly used, motion sensor soap dispensers and faucets are extremely helpful in reducing the spread of germs. Paper towel dispensers or automatic hand dryers that are also motion sensitive make for an almost touchless bathroom experience.
See examples of touchless faucets here.

Refrigerators & Microwaves
Two of the germiest places in the workplace are surprisingly not in the bathroom, but where employees store and prepare their food. Refrigerator door handles can be made to be arm operated, with the ability to pull the doors open by simply using your arm. Microwaves are slightly trickier; however, technology comes to the rescue again! Several models of smart wi-fi appliances allow for a touchless experience. Applications like the Sharp Kitchen App allow mobile devices to open doors and set cook times for microwaves.
See a smart refrigerator with touchless features here.

Trash & Recycling
Of course, we expect there to be germs on or near a trash can. Touching the lid of a can, that has been handled hundreds of times with who-knows-what is not ideal. Having trash cans or recycling bins with open tops or the capability to open with a foot pedal is a simple solution to a touchless trash situation.
See examples of open top trash and recycling bins here.

Some of these “touchless” solutions are easier to implement than others, and they all vary in cost. The ultimate goal, however, is to create work environments where coworkers can collaborate, share ideas, and socialize with one another in a single workspace that is healthy and safe.



For more information on integrating touchless features in your workpace, contact Jeremiah Hatfield at 260-422-4241 or by email

Design Collaborative does not have any contracts with any of the businesses whose links are provided, nor do they make any profit off of the products shared through those links.

  • Helmer, Jodi. “Beware of Workplace Germs.” WebMD, WebMD, 2 Aug. 2019,

  • Staples. The Scary Truth about Office Hygiene, 2020,