As the government looks to implement business reopening measures, employers are now discussing and planning to move employees back into the workplace. As we look ahead, many of our clients are grappling with how they can plan, communicate, and transition hundreds to thousands of employees back into the office with new guidelines and policies to maintain the health of both employees and the company.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, we’ve outlined some considerations, tools, and space design methodologies that we’re working with clients on that may help guide other organizations who are facing new challenges.
Goals and Policy Considerations
First, we want to start by sharing the goals and policies we set in our own return to work plans. These are policies widely accepted by many businesses today and follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for reducing the spread of illness.
Returning to Work Goals
In making our preparations to work again in our physical office, these three goals guided our planning:
- Reduce transmission among employees.
- Maintain healthy business operations.
- Maintain a healthy work environment.
We have created the following new guidelines for our team to follow:
- Stay at Home: Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should stay home.
- Maintain Social Distancing: Practice social distancing by avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.
- Hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash.
While we all wish that our return to work could be instantaneous and as normal as before, we must recognize that safety precautions will change the way in which we manage tasks and employees. We recommend that you also modify business practices to promote social distancing and reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
- Travel: Follow CDC guidelines to continue limiting travel to non-essential businesses.
- Flex Working: Establish alternating days or hourly shifts to limit occupancy. Allow an employee to work from home if he or she has known exposure, is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or has a compromised immune system.
- No Sharing: Discourage workers from using other employee’s phones, computers, desk space or other tools/equipment. Remove communal pens and notepads from auxiliary spaces.
- Visitors: Reduce the amount of outside traffic/visitors. If a visitor must enter to continue business, provide instructions to properly enter the space with protective wear and sanitation.
- Web-Based Meetings: Encourage continued use of online meetings between employees and clients.
- Protection: Those that are sick must stay home. Encourage wearing masks in the workplace when using shared spaces.
- Agile Work: Where hoteling or using open seating, provide sanitizer for surface wipe down before and after use. Temporarily assign desks in lieu of hoteling to limit cross contamination.
This is where our work gets really interesting. We have the unique opportunity to help our clients plan for a “new normal” by spacing work in a way that is not only safe, but efficient.
- Seating: Remove and store excess seating from workstations and meeting/gathering spaces, if possible — including stools/side chairs intended for impromptu collaboration. If furniture cannot be relocated, use signage, physical markers, or tape across seating arms to detour use.
- Sanitization: Provide sanitation stations/supplies throughout the space and follow CDC guidelines for cleaning.
- Workstations: Distance seating patterns to allow for 6 feet between occupants. If this cannot be achieved, install a 21 inch tall screen between employees.
- Signage: Use a variety of signage types to clearly communicate how to interact within the space, including:
1. Temporary one way/clockwise traffic flow shown with arrows on the floor
2. Occupancy limit signage for all spaces
3. Sanitation instructions before and after space use.
- Doors: To reduce the need to physically touch door handles, install foot openers or keep doors open in secure entry points.
- Visitors: Provide visitor/customer tissue and waste receptacle designations.
- Deliveries: Create a designated holding space for incoming packages and mail.
- Mechanical: Where possible, evaluate air filtration systems for cleaning and to increase ventilation rates.
Product Implementation Considerations
In order to facilitate the above space considerations, here are some suggested products to aid in social distancing recommendations:
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Carson Design Assistance
We know the next few months will be difficult and new for many, and we recognize the great deal of planning that goes into making sure your employees are prepared to return to the office. We are here for you.
Maybe you need help assessing your workflow and operational necessities, evaluating your physical space, and calculating your density and occupancy. Or maybe you need help developing a social distancing plan that aligns with your workflow and space — proposing scenarios and space configuration solutions. Or perhaps you need help developing content for your communication plan, creating visual tools, specifying products and coordinating installation, based on your schedule and budget.
Please contact us today to let us know what you need.