Now that more and more businesses are beginning to hang their “we’re open” signs once again in the face of today’s pandemic world, many physical aspects of the office life we were accustomed to are getting a considerable COVID-19 makeover. But what does the workplace look like now as businesses are beginning to reopen amid the pandemic and in the future long after it’s over?
Trellis, a Herman Miller-certified dealer and office space creator, recognizes that the work culture has indefinitely changed since the last time we sat at our in-office desks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States earlier this year. The everyday work environment many of us have lived, breathed and celebrated for years will be different as employees around the country return to their cubicles or open-space offices.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for business owners in this COVID-19 world. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) guidelines for businesses vary based on the type of work setting (office, manufacturing, etc.). However, as this cultural change in the business world continues to evolve, we too, have to evolve the way we work while staying safe. Upgraded technology, revised workspace solutions, and finding new ways to collaborate and interact are the key components businesses will need to focus on as they reopen.
“This is an extremely dynamic situation. With new data and research coming out almost daily, it’s important that businesses stay flexible and agile,” said Bill Payne, president of Trellis.
When employees return to work, they will face a new set of safety policies and protocols designed to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. In addition to the guidelines set forth by the CDC, such as new cleaning procedures and wearing a facemask, the design and layout of office furniture is another important aspect in minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. There are several modifications businesses can do to help improve employee safety and confidence as they return to work:
- Identify scenarios where people will need to stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Reconfigure workstations to support additional space in between employees — at least 6 feet apart.
- Reposition office furniture — tables and chairs — to remain at least 6 feet apart.
- Eliminate shared workstations (hoteling).
- Declutter offices: Removing picture frames, knick-knacks and personal items that collect dust from desks.
- Consider shields or separators in between close-contact employee workstations. While these aren’t proven to prohibit the spread of germs, they do provide employees a sense of psychological safety.
- Require occupancy limits for shared spaces.
- Optimize technology to provide greater use of video conferencing systems.
- Create a one-way or two-way circulation path to allow for proper distancing when passing in corridors.
- Add extra hand sanitizing and PPE stations.
- Create a daily desk disinfecting regimen for employees as they begin and end their day.
“For business owners, transparent communication with your employees about how you’re planning a safe return is critical to their comfort level. They need to know they, too, will be safe when they return to work and feel confident that their employer is looking out for them,” Payne said. “We have a long road ahead of us as we fight this pandemic. But businesses should act now and plan for the future of our new work culture.”