With continual change on the horizon, Sara Cook, CEO of Commercial Office Environments understands the importance of shifting work environments to suit the current health standards, but still enable employees to thrive in their spaces.
Sara suggests that leaders rigorously evaluate the operational activities and service that occurs in their work environment. Look at considerations, such as 6’ social distancing, and implement as needed in your space while keeping in mind any guidelines that could come into play by the CDC, and each state or local government. Recently it was suggested that you need 12’ distance when walking and 6’ when sitting and even 20 to 30 feet if exercising or riding a bike!
Leaders might need to engage a commercial furniture dealer or designer to evaluate their current floor plate to assist in making recommendations based upon what is known today for social distance requirements and to discuss costs and budgeting. Knowing where to eliminate seats, capacities for conference rooms, break rooms, bathrooms, social spaces, and lobbies are essential when redesigning a workspace. Be sure to evaluate the best resources to accomplish any needed modifications to ensure the safe division of personnel at their workspaces and the ability to clean with the recommended disinfecting products.
It is imperative that space allocation per worker increase to allow for social distancing with proper heights of dividers to stop the spread of germs when someone coughs or sneezes. Sara believes that cleaning protocols will be ongoing and more products will be used that have antimicrobial properties that germs can’t survive on. “People will work remotely more if they feel ill instead of coming into the office. I don’t know if we will take everyone’s temperature forever or just trust people to be honest when they have a fever to stay home!” says Sara. Conference and meeting spaces will either need to get larger or have less seating and will likely use more on-line, video meetings to accommodate larger groups.
Sara believes that leaders should be communicating a Return to Work Plan (RTW) for both their employees as well as their customers in a safe manner such as through email or be held through a Zoom or Teams meeting that will be available to the public.
The greatest advice Sara Cook can give is, “Be flexible in plans!” Changes will evolve with emerging health guidelines. Buildings and proper airflow in the space are and will be more important to everyone so germs are not allowed to spread. Open doors to enclosed rooms and offices and open outside doors and windows when you can to allow fresh air thru the space as much as possible.
With Sara’s background and many years of experience, she knows that sustainable materials are available that can be cleaned with disinfectants such as copper, which is a natural antimicrobial material that does not allow germs to grow. She suggests leaders take a look at trying to alter commonly touched items to operate touchless, like faucets, light switches, toilets, paper towels, and doors.
Last, but not least, consider the financial aspects of the added costs to enhance cleaning, hand sanitizers, PPE, screening services, and increased communications. Capitol will be needed for space reconfigurations, changes to furniture, fixtures, and technology components to support your post-COVID-19 workplace.