As businesses re-open, the buzz among business leaders is all about how to make office space as safe as possible. For the economy to survive this pandemic, we all need to quickly make offices safe for employees and customers to return to the business of innovating, buying, selling, and thriving.
For years, the cost of real estate and the advancements in technology have influenced businesses to increase employee density; just the opposite of what is required to keep virus transmission to a minimum.
Many changes can take place immediately. Planning is key, with a commitment to execution as a top priority. We are all learning as we go. Learn, adapt, and change will be three drivers as we create the “new normal” in office design.
Take a close look at primary zones – reception areas, workstation design, meeting areas, breakrooms lounge space, and the potential to use outdoor patios and grassy areas for alternative break and meeting space.
Employees will return with a range of confidence. From the fearful to the overly bold, it will be helpful to have a facility and HR plan for managing human behavior as they enter back into the workplace.
1. Create outdoor break areas for use during good weather.
- Combine shade, seating and tables in an area which is pleasant and comfortable.
2. Engage a professional space planner to lead or assist with a comprehensive facility evaluation to identify “hot zones” for virus transmission. During this transition, we will offer a free remote consultation to businesses. Just email me if you need help. firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Create “safe zones” inside and outside where people can get away. Identify areas throughout your building where employees can set up. Your plan should identify if these areas are designed to be temporary or if employees are able to occupy these areas for long periods of time. This is an interesting commodity. It seems as if many furniture manufacturers have a collection coming out to address this need.
4. Install acrylic or glass barriers between workstations and desks. This is an interesting commodity. It seems as if many furniture manufacturers have a collection coming out to address this need. These products are a valuable tool. If you need them, get them quickly as it seems acrylic supplies are becoming difficult to find.
5. Add acrylic dividers in conference rooms. To keep 6’ between users on opposite sides of a conference table, you need a table with a minimum with of 5’. The option would be to place a divider down the center of the table, alternate seating so people are off-set from each other, and remove excess seating to encourage appropriate distancing. Face coverings need to be worn in enclosed areas.
6. Add a wellness panels and consultation booths in reception areas where exposure is greater. These can be used in any area where greater protection and separation is desired. Cleanability for any divider or surface where touch-transfer is likely. Glass, acrylic, and laminate are good solutions.
7. Add Solar Workstations to your patio or property to allow employees to work outside. Sunbolt offers an impressive range of solutions. Check them out here.
8. Add antiseptic wipe dispensers throughout your office to encourage employees to clean throughout the workday.
9. Allow flex time in shifts to reduce density in the office. Minimize shared desks as much as possible.
10. Use government guides as reference for education and compliance. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
11. Evaluate “touch zones” and create recommendations on how to best avoid transferring contaminates. Examples would be:
- Elevator Buttons
- Door Hardware & Handrails
- Restroom Facilities & Faucets
- Phones & Computers
- Shared Coffee Makers, Microwaves, etc.
12. Change greeting culture – no more hugs or handshakes.
13. Open doors and windows when possible to increase air flow.
14. Evaluate sick time policies to allow sick employees to stay home.
- Work from home technology.
- Creative ways service employees can work from home – home based projects.
15. Support remote workers with ergonomic tools. Think about an inexpensive furniture bundle including a chair, small desk, and keyboard tray to make remote work comfortable and productive.
16. Use meeting technology such as Zoom at work.
17. Find a face mask source and provide masks to employees who do not have one.
18. Use a creative way to identify appropriate social distancing in waiting rooms, conference rooms, break areas, and restrooms. I love this idea at a Maryland restaurant https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/coronavirus-restaurant-bumper-tables-trnd/index.html
19. Have some fun – have a contest where employees team up to come up with SD ideas.
20. Have weekly meeting to celebrate teams with the best results.