Rearrange existing office furniture
Right now, the top priority for businesses is to return their employees to the office as quickly and as safely as possible. In this first wave of re-opening (which allows for up to 50% of employees in the office at one time), companies should focus on retrofitting the workplace to align with current health guidelines.
The most immediate way to do this is to rearrange existing office furniture to ensure they comply with social distancing protocols.
If possible, employees’ desks should be spaced six feet apart from each other, while other furniture can be rearranged or even removed to add more space.
Social distancing can be enforced further with visual design cues to enforce the six-feet rule, as commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has implemented. One-way traffic may also be enforced to keep employees from making unnecessary contact.
Surfaces should also be cleaned more frequently, especially within common areas or with shared items.
Install temporary plexiglass barriers
Many businesses, such as restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores, have already installed temporary plexiglass shields and barriers to stunt the spread of the coronavirus.
These same barriers can be used in an office environment in areas with high foot traffic and in-person interactions. Temporary plexiglass shields can be placed in conference rooms, on employee desks or in hallways to separate people and maintain social distance guidelines.
It may come to be that plexiglass partitions become permanent in the new office norm.
Repurpose communal spaces
For many businesses, large, communal spaces are going unused to comply with social distancing guidelines.
These spaces include larger conference rooms, cafeterias and employee lounges.
Rather than avoiding these rooms altogether, businesses can repurpose the rooms as temporary workspaces so employees can spread out. Furthermore, if your company has space outside, you can move employees outdoors with weather permitting.
Open windows instead of using air conditioning
According to researchers from the University of Oregon and the University of California-Davis, opening windows is the optimal way to climate-control the office while preventing the spread of coronavirus. Central air conditioners and heaters re-circulate the air, which can transmit viral particles from one space to another.
In contrast, opening the windows in your office will allow air to flow freely, preventing the virus from circulating through communal spaces.
While not possible for every office building, if you can, open the windows in your office for climate control.
If your office building does not allow you to open windows, avoid standing near the air conditioning exhaust, where particles are often trapped.
Purchase additional hand sanitizers
Hand washing is a simple, yet effective, way to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. As people return to the office, employers should consider purchasing hand sanitizer stations that are placed around common areas, such as break rooms, reception areas, entrances, conference rooms and restrooms to promote good hygiene.
If your office already has hand sanitizing stations in common areas, consider adding personal stations to employee desks. Alternatively, you can supply each worker with their own personal sanitizer each week, along with guidelines for office hand hygiene.
Enforce office capacity policies
Of course, creating distance between employees becomes easier when fewer people are in the building. Many companies are implementing a phased approach to returning people to the office, such as staggering schedules and encouraging a mixture of remote and onsite work. Communal activities, such as buffet breakfasts and office-wide meetings, should be put on hold or modified to comply with safety regulations.
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