As many organizations start to bring people back to the office, things have changed since our pre-pandemic times. Employers are considering how to keep employees safe, evaluating areas and setups that could increase exposure to COVID-19 and future threats, and trying to create a space that encourages collaboration and productivity. This is an interesting time and designing your office as a post-pandemic workplace can be tricky to manage. We are here to help with some tips and suggestions for how you can set your workplace up for success in this changed environment.
How the Pandemic Changed the Office Environment
Businesses are not only struggling with if, when, and how to safely bring employees back to the office, they are also faced with the need to reevaluate their workspace to support the post-pandemic times.
Many companies are making adjustments to their offices to help employees feel safer as they return to in-person work, like improving air circulation systems or moving desks further apart. Others are ditching desks and building more conference rooms to accommodate employees who still work remotely but come in for meetings (APNews).
Let’s review some tips for designing your office as a post-pandemic workplace.
- Add space between seating and workstations: The CDC suggests that employees should be kept at a safe distance when returning to the office. Where possible, move desks and seating to allow amble space, 6 feet if possible.
- Install shields and barriers: If seating can not be farther apart, you can install shields and barriers between cubicles and desks.
- Replace communal items: Shared items throughout the office such as coffee pots, condiments, maybe even the office stapler, should be replaced with alternatives, such as single serving options or individual equipment.
- Eliminate “high-touch” areas or add sanitizing options: Areas that used to be considered “high-touch” areas should be replaced, if possible. It may not be realistic to buy a refrigerator for all employees, so instead, you can ensure there are sanitizing solutions and instructions to help employees navigate this new time.
- Improve office ventilation: If possible, you should take steps to improve the air throughout the office space. You can hire an HVAC professional to help, open windows when/if possible, install HEPA filtration systems, etc.
- Change work policies: If you haven’t already, you may want to consider being more flexible with employees working from home. Encourage employees who don’t feel well to stay home and have a process for disinfecting their workstation if they had been in the office recently.
- Actively clean high-touch surfaces: You should follow this Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility process, provided by the CDC to create a plan to perform regular cleanings of surfaces to reduce the risk of people’s exposure to any viruses.
- Encourage outdoor and open space meetings: If people are going to meet, you should encourage them to do so in large conference rooms with amble space, or advise them to hold meetings outdoors or in other open spaces throughout the workplace.
- Eliminate open office floor plans: In an open setting floor plan, employees are typically not assigned one space or area. This leads to employees moving from space to space, which can spread germs. Open offices are defined by their lack of dividers of any kind, and when designing your office as a post-pandemic workplace, that is not ideal.
As we enter into this new time, designing your office as a post-pandemic workplace can be challenging and overwhelming. Whether you are going from an open office setting to cubicles, adding additional conference rooms and meeting areas, changing your office breakout space, or just coming up with ways to regularly clean office furniture, it can be hard to navigate.
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