While the working world has largely adapted to remote collaboration and work from home, coming back to the office is still a contentious issue. The easiest solution is to stay completely remote until vaccinations have successfully rolled out. Unfortunately, this is only viable for companies who had an dedicated infrastructure before the pandemic.
Especially for industries that heavily rely on client relations, spiking infection rates remain a danger, yet “Zoom Fatigue” is causing an unforeseen level of burnout among employees and contractors. Returning to the office is calculated risk that will inevitably pay off.
So what goes into creating a COVID-safe workspace? How do you protect your staff from being infected or infecting co-workers? And how does collaboration work at a constant six feet apart?
If you’re having trouble parsing the CDC Guidelines, here are three easy steps to get yourself started.
Before Returning to Work, Identify and Eliminate High Contact Areas
Assuming your building and office furniture has been properly disinfected and installed appropriate HVAC ventilation systems, your first step will be to review the floor plan of your workspace and remove any areas with heavy foot traffic or prolonged contact.
Spaces to eliminate include break rooms, waiting areas, as well certain points of exit and entry that may be too narrow to remain six feet apart. Most offices have also removed amentias such as water coolers and vending machines due to frequent contact, as well as eating spaces since they are often too small to consistently maintain six feet apart.
While the decisions to eliminate common areas may be unpopular, it’s important to remember that “Elimination” is at the top of the CDC’s Hierarchy of Controls for a reason. It’s also important to be in communication with all of your employees, as well as contractors and janitorial staff.
Install Glass Paneling or Shields Between Cubicles
Having desks six feet apart will not be enough to create a workplace safe from COVID infection. Walking around the office is going to be a chore, and it won’t be easy for managers to check in their staff. Adding acrylic glass or other shields between cubicles is a great way to keep individual employees safe, while not having to significantly alter their behavior. Office Furniture Shop has options for purchasing acrylic and plexiglass panels.
While the CDC also recommends reconfiguring work stations so that employees are not facing each other, using transparent partitions or glass paneling will be more conducive to teamwork. Consider why you, as an employer, wanted staff back into the office in the first place.Many employers found online collaboration untenable and their managers had difficulty keeping tabs on their team.
In fact, it may be prudent to re-design your entire space and buy new cubicles. Office Furniture Shop also provides office space planning ideas and has new and pre-owned cubicles for sale. All pre-owned merchandise is diligently disinfected by our staff. It’s incredible value, especially if you’re on a budget and we offer delivery and installation as well.
Create Signage and Labelling
Since not every potential hazard can be eliminated, it is important to post signage regarding CDC and inter-office guidelines. Reminders to wear masks and avoid surface touching, occupancy limits for meeting rooms, and guidelines for effective handwashing are all staples for workplace signage. If possible, laminate signage, cover it in clear packing tape, or put it behind glass to ensure it can be wiped down properly and free from touch.
If eliminating your reception area is not possible, taping off and putting as sign on every other chair to ensure clients are remaining six feet apart. Spacing them apart is also possible, but keep in mind that if the chairs are not bolted to the floor, they may move around and not be six feet apart.
Other signage can include cleaning schedules for the office, areas where PPE and hand sanitizer can be found, and any other useful information regarding significant changes in the workspaces. Any posting that encourages interaction, such as a sign-up sheet should be handled electronically.