The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives. Over one-third of our earth’s population is under lockdown that will most probably go on for some more time. Businesses have been affected heavily, and most have sent their employees to work from home.
As we are getting used to remote working, there is a growing concern affecting business owners and entrepreneurs. The office, as we know it, will cease to exist. We are going to experience a massive shift in workplace approach and design to counter the spread of COVID.
While nothing is certain, we can make some idea of how things would be. Some are also conducting research to determine how workplaces will look after workers start to return. Needless to say, there would be significant changes. And as a business owner, you need to be prepared!
In this whitepaper, we will explore the possible changes you may need to make in your workplace. The main objective would be to foster social distancing and safety so that your employees don’t get infected.
Distance Will be Key
Distance will be a key consideration for any changes you make to your office space. The CDC has recommended maintaining at least a 6-feet distance between people. You may have to decongest your crowded office space to ensure the recommended gap.
This means you will need to rearrange the desks, tables, and chairs. Your employees should sit at least 6-feet afar from each other. Offices that had cubicles or the box design will have less work.
However, offices that use open spaces will have to do a major shifting of furniture. You may also need to put up partitions or walls to separate working spaces. Your employees will also want to maintain social distance, so expect a rise in demand for solo and isolated working spaces.
Many companies may continue to provide remote working options as it ultimately saves overheads. With fewer employees in your office, you may have some extra space to implement social distancing effectively.
Collaboration Rooms May Need Extra Space
We will most probably stick to the 10-person limit for some time in case of gatherings to check the spread of coronavirus. Companies will more employees will need to think of some strategies to transform their collaboration spaces like conference and training rooms.
You may take out some of the chairs and create more space to ensure distancing. Get rid of the big single tables or replace the chairs to maintain 6-feet distance.
However, most companies may not be going for training anytime soon. In such cases, you can use your conference rooms or training rooms to create private working zones or solitary spaces.
Till the time things get back to normal, you may consider holding remote conferences or training. Your employees can use their mobiles or desktop to collaborate over chat or video conferencing.
Visual Signs to Ensure Social Distance
It’s now always easy to remember social distancing norms while you are caught up at work. Employees may unconsciously get close to each other while fulfilling their daily duties.
Signage and visual indications will be crucial to ensure your workforce maintains the required distance. You may need to draw out circles on the floor near desks, receptions, and any place where close proximity can be a challenge. You can consider places like the cafeteria, break room, and so on.
Visual signs can encourage desired behaviors and reduce contamination. You can, for example, paint arrows on walls to indicate the way employees should move. It’s a strategy utilized by healthcare workers who walk on clockwise in hospitals to check the spread of pathogens.
You might need to adopt similar approaches for your office and lanes around it.
Healthy Indoor Air
Most offices use HVAC systems that heavily compromise on fresh air. All they do is circulate what’s inside the building with added carbon dioxide, gases, and other chemicals. Needless to say, pathogens and bacteria are also part of the package.
Experts agree central air conditioning can increase the risks of spreading coronavirus. The low temperature and humid conditions in offices can easily provide a means of contamination. Most ACs also don’t filter small pathogens like coronavirus.
As a result, you will need to think about your HVAC and ventilation approach. China seems to lead the pack here with stringent measures for indoor air quality. Most enterprises in China already use advanced air filtration systems that help reduce the risks of contamination. You may need to think out similar strategies and invest in upgrading your HVAC.
Small offices may be able to go traditional and use natural ventilation. You can open the windows and use the fan if the heat is not too unbearable!
Promoting the No Touch Concept
You will need to make several changes in your workspace to check any risks of coronavirus transmission. This means reducing the possibilities of touch in spaces like entries and restrooms. You have several options for the mission, and some can be really inexpensive.
In case of doors, you can replace unidirectional doors with swinging doors. If you don’t mind investing, you can even go for automated doors that open by detecting motion- the likes you see at shopping malls or airports.
Business owners might even go for innovative approaches like self-cleaning door handles. Or, you can just attach a small platform below the door so that people can pull it with their feet. Here’s your chance to get creative!
The “no touch” approach should also extend to places like the restrooms. You should consider installing automated soap and water dispensers as recommended by the CDC.
Also, provide paper towels and proper bins to dispose of them.
Hygiene and Sanitization
Keeping your office free of germs and contamination will be a top priority as workers take the desk. Apart from your efforts, your employees will also need to help out.
You will need to provide resources like touchless sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. These should be placed at various corners of your office and made clearly visible.
Your employees can use a paper mat for their desks and dispose of them after signing off. The housekeeping team should also do their rounds and disinfect surfaces several times a day.
Some companies are using sensors to automate cleaning in their offices. The sensors can identify areas and furniture that need cleaning and send notifications to the housekeeping team.
Assess your office and determine what you need to ensure optimum hygiene. Then plan accordingly.
Visitor Check-In and Management
Reception is usually a high-traffic zone for all businesses. Guests, visitors, delivery boys, and a number of people stop at the reception for information. However, that needs to change after COVID-19.
To start with, you will need to maintain social distancing successfully in the reception area and lobby. You can put up a glass in front of the reception to block droplets released by talking or sneezing. The use of protective gear like masks should also be encouraged.
You will also have to rearrange your waiting area. Rearrange the chairs so that you have a 6-feet distance between the people. Some offices are doing away completely with seating arrangements for the time being.
Companies will even need to rethink their visitor check-in and management. You should not encourage use of visitor badges or cards that go from one hand to another. However, technology has already made a great advance in this regard.
You can now get visitor management solutions that help you provide touchless entry and registration. Visitors can use their mobiles to check-in and gain access to the right area. You can also track every visitor in your building and where they are for complete surveillance.
We are expecting an increased use of technology to facilitate the redesign of spaces and offices. Some companies have already started using sensors that can track employee movement through mobiles. It can help companies measure the efficacy of their new design and whether it works or not. You can even sound a warning on the mobiles if employees get too close to one another.
Many companies already use sensors for building management. The sensors pick up crucial data and help automate processes like climate control. We can use the sensors to track air quality and warn when a place becomes too cold or dry to raise risks of contamination.
The other ways we discussed, like touchless entry and sign-in, will also depend on technology. Apart from them, you can also expect an increase in the use of teleconferencing or video conferencing technology.
The office or workplace we know will be going through a big transformation in the coming months. We should closely follow the updates from WHO, CDC, and other credible organizations and implement recommendations to keep our workforce safe. Social distancing will be the key factor, along with ways to minimize contamination and spread of COVID. You can get in touch with Bruce Fogelson for professional guidance on redesigning your office. We are also open to fulfill all your office and workspace rental needs and leases exclusively at Chicago Office Brokers. Get in touch with us to know how we can help.