As the date for offices to re-open draws near, there is a lot of speculation of what reopening will mean for many businesses. For decades, offices have been transitioning to more flexible and collaborative arrangements. It can almost seem like a drawback to the past, for businesses to consider how to keep employees apart. In this post, we will be your toolbox to help guide you through re-opening your office post Covid-19.
1. Create a Safety Plan
In the weeks following reopening your office, it will be necessary to reassure employees coming back to the office that it will be a safe environment. The first thing you will need to do is to create a safety plan. There may be some employees that will want to continue working from home, while others will want to immediately go back to the office. Offices may need to operate at half capacity, and you will likely have many employees that are high risk or have parental responsibilities, which might keep them from immediately coming back to work. Keep up to date with the CDC's guidelines, and appoint a trusted person in your office to be in charge of handling your company’s transition back to work. Consider revising your cybersecurity plan to accommodate employees that are still working remotely. Reach out to your landlord and attorney, for advice in determining the next best steps.
2. Deep Clean Your Office
With employees working from home, all offices have sat unoccupied for weeks and will require cleaning. Your team may even want to hire professionals to clean your office on a regular basis. Consider communicating with your building first to find out what solutions they offer. Independently there are many companies that offer a full range of cleaning services, from surface-cleaning to electrostatic spray disinfecting. Also, communicate with your building to stay up to date on improvements in building maintenance, elevators, and HVAC systems. These will be critical factors that will impact reopening quickly and safely. View the cleaning services we offer here.
3. Determine How Your Employees Will Maintain Social and Physical Distance
Create a “guidebook” for what your company will look like when returning back to work. Get feedback from your employees on what their needs will be, identify concerns and begin to work on solutions. Offices that were designed for density, will need to be re-thought to prioritize safety and distance. For employees who will be returning to work, decide how your office layout will enable them to be 6 feet apart at all times. Some businesses that plan to operate at half capacity may decide to stagger employees at desks, allowing for each employee to be one desk-length apart.
Designers suggest beginning from the entrance of your office plan, and work to eliminate different ‘touch points’ as you work your way through the space. You may decide to get rid of communal items like shared coffee pots and include hand sanitizer nearby printers and more trafficked parts of the office. You can create areas of separation between workstations with existing furniture, privacy panels and even plants. Creating signage is critical in re-enforcing new social behaviors. Returning to the office will include reconsidering social distancing protocols, and a completely new perspective on office layout considerations.
4. Reconfigure Your Office
For many offices, office reconfiguration will be a necessity for returning back to work. At OFH we have been helping many of our clients reconfigure their existing furniture plans to match their present needs. Reviewing your current office plan provides valuable insight on what the highest priority needs are, and what can be easily adjusted. There are many solutions that can be included in a space from new partitions, sneeze guards, walls, and wider desking configurations. However, many more solutions can be reached by also repurposing existing furniture. Different design solutions can include re-orienting desks to face outward (so employees do not face each other directly) or including partitions between existing desks to reduce contact. The most important thing is to find a practical and safe solution to get back to work. Our team excels in providing those creative solutions for our clients.
Discussing This Further
There are many unanswered questions of what these next few weeks and months will bring for offices in cities heavily impacted by Covid-19. Being able to work in a safe and healthy environment continues to be a critical consideration that impacts many businesses’ decision to reopen. At OFH we believe in providing our clients with the resources they need in order to re-open their offices with the complete confidence that their employees will be safe, and that they are compliant with the new regulations and guidelines.
We would love to open a conversation with you and your team and offer our knowledge and experience in helping us all get past these difficult times. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a virtual meeting to discuss your office needs.