You are trying to reopen your office and bring staff back into the physical office for at least part of the time. While remote work has not, research says, impacted employee productivity as much as might have been expected there are just some companies – and some employees – that are better suited, and served, when employees can work together physically.
Reopening your office will mean that safety has to take priority. This in itself can be confusing as much of the science behind COVID-19 safety is still in its infancy and even somewhat muddled.
While large companies have the budget to undertake major office refits smaller businesses simply do not, especially right now. However, making use of what you have, and implementing some creative thinking, can allow you to reopen your physical office and welcome back your employees as safely as the 'big boys' can. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Over the past couple decades, cubicles fell out of favor in the modern workplace and were replaced with open-office designs. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made people value private, personal spaces.
To help foster the feeling of an open office workplace while providing a private space for individual employees, plexiglass cubicles can be considered to replace the open office concept.
While temporary plexiglass partitions are being installed all over the country, the coronavirus may be the reason why more permeant cubicles, like those that populated most offices in the 80's and 90's, return to the office enviroment on a full-time basis.
Turn conference rooms into “officles”
While cubicles seem to be returning to popularity because of COVID-19, you may want to also consider removing one wall in conference rooms to help promote a healthy workplace.
These spaces are known in design circles as “officles”, because they are a cross between an office and a cubicle. Because these newly renovated spaces only have three walls, air can flow freely throughout the space and potentially prevent germs from gathering in one location.
Create conference spaces rather than rooms
While officles are one way to transition conference spaces to the new normal, open corners of an office space can be used as a permanent, or makeshift, replacement of a closed conference room. Similar to officles, corner conference rooms promote airflow and can allow employees to spread out from one another.
Rethink the reception area
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most open offices offered a reception area where customers, clients or other visitors were typically greeted by an employee, then encouraged to sit or grab a cup of coffee while they waited for whomever they were scheduled to meet with.
While this approach certainly made customers feel more comfortable and welcome, reception areas in the post-COVID could see a major overhaul in the next few months.
Some companies are reimagining the reception area as a decontamination lounge. New procedures, such as taking temperatures at the door, placing hand washing stations in waiting rooms, or even instructing people to take off their shoes, may become commonplace.
Meanwhile, amenities that pose a higher risk of spreading germs like self-serve coffee will likely go by the wayside to reduce the risk of transmission. In its place, you may see a sink or hand washing station that you must use before entering the office.
Update air filtration and ventilation
One way coronavirus is thought to spread is primarily through droplets when we talk, cough and breathe. While many of these droplets fall to the ground and dissipate quickly, smaller particles may linger in the air. Improving air filtration and ventilation is one way to mitigate against these tiny, potentially viral particles.
Many large businesses are poised to upgrade their HVAC systems in the near future to improve airflow and filter out contaminants. If you don’t have the budget to replace your HVAC, portable air purifiers can be placed around the office for a fraction of the cost. This is especially useful if office windows can’t be opened to air out the space.