Blog, Insights

Planning for the Near, Now

Office space, COVID-19

COVID-19. #StayHome. Social-isolation. These, amongst a few other terms, have been trending for weeks across social media channels. We doubt we will forget these any time soon, as the coronavirus continues to affect countries across the globe. 

While homeschooling kids, managing a business and working to protect our community as best as we can, I have been looking for information to hold onto to assist all of us who are running an essential service. They say that knowledge is power, so I hope this bit of knowledge will help you feel powerful in a situation that is beyond our control. 

Let’s continue keeping a 2-meter distance. Unless people are wearing face masks, the 2-meter social distancing rule should apply in the physical workspace until there is a COVID-19 vaccine and the coronavirus is no longer a health threat to employees. During the interim, remove excess chairs in conference rooms with more than 10 seats. Spread out collaborative seating, so people are spaced further apart. And encourage your people to collaborate virtually whenever possible.

Replan work areas. This might be a challenge in areas where desk spacing is tight, such as some open benching layouts. In situations where existing desk spacing is less than 2-meters apart, consider using every other desk to create a buffer for each person. This could be achieved by alternating work weeks, assigning some people to work from home or temporarily locating them in other areas. Employees should be placed so they don’t face one another. Consider adding partitions for sitting/standing desks that are attached to the desktop, to block potentially harmful germs from being transmitted by talking, coughing or sneezing. Avoid situations where one employee is standing while another is seated within the same 2-meter distance.

Rethink dynamic and unassigned seating. Upon return, consider assigning what were formerly shared desks, to individuals for a full day or a week, and then make sure they are disinfected before a new person uses the work setting. Provide the necessary technology and limit tech sharing (mouse, keyboard or headset) to avoid transmission of COVID-19. 

Ramp up cleaning protocols. Employee health depends on a safe and clean work environment. Organizations should implement professional cleaning protocols not only for workstations, but for conference rooms, collaborative areas, cafes, reception desks, and other common areas at regular intervals throughout the day. Employers should provide disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers throughout the office – and especially in shared areas. Reinforce good hygiene practices with well-stocked restrooms that have touchless soap and anti-viral cleaning supplies. Provide plenty of hands-free dispensers with sanitizer (60-95% alcohol) in all office areas, lobbies, conference rooms and lounges.

Upgrade air filtration systems. The air we breathe is also a shared resource, so invest in air-cleaning systems to protect collaborative environments. Consider installing state-of-the-art air purification and sanitization systems. Many of these systems display real-time air quality measurements on digital screens to keep employees informed. It will also serve as a continuous disinfectant; improving air quality by reducing airborne and surface contaminants like viruses, bacteria, germs, VOCs, smoke, and other allergens.

Practice good hygiene. Reinforce good hygiene practices with well-stocked restrooms that have touchless soap and anti-viral cleaning supplies. Employers should also install plenty of hands-free dispensers with sanitizer that contains at least 60−95% alcohol in lobbies, conference rooms, and lounges. No-touch garbage and recycling receptacles are preferable. Also, door pulls, badge readers, and shared common areas should be disinfected throughout the day.

Consider new ways of working. Instead of mandating that everyone come back at once, consider offering the option for people to do it in waves. The longer we work from home in large numbers, the more new habits and new ways of working will begin to take shape. We will have discovered different ways to collaborate virtually, which may likely continue when we return to the office. 

We all expect the COVID-19 pandemic to cause major shifts in how we experience the world. So, when this crisis ends, we may well discover there have been fundamental changes in the way we work and in workplace design. But we know the workplace still matters. Building a community, reinforcing our organization’s culture, and strengthening relationships with colleagues is still what the workplace is all about.

I hope this information is helpful to your organization. We will continue researching ways that will assist us all during these difficult times.

Please stay healthy!!!

Marcia Mayhew, CEO

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