Returning to an office can feel intimidating when COVID-19 is still a widespread pandemic. While post-COVID office furniture can make a significant difference in how employees navigate a new office floor plan and remain focused and productive, there are also common sense steps employers and staff can take to safely establish a “new normal.”
Coronavirus cases are still making the headlines and impacting the way we think about work for the at least the next year. There are ways to ensure the safety of your health and protective methods you can implement for employees using social distancing office furniture and best social practices. While there’s no guarantee you won’t catch Coronavirus, the following techniques can help lower you remain healthy and lower your risk of infection.
A Common Sense Guide for Returning to the Post COVID-19 Workplace
It’s all about vigilance and preparation using a customized management system. Make sure employees and leadership are on the same page by distributing guidelines well in advance so everyone can prepare. Buffering in extra daily time for health checks and space to complete tasks will definitely help in lowering overall stress levels.
- Socialize…at a Distance.
It’s strongly recommended by global health officials to maintain a distance of six feet between staff. Your business can increase or create the recommended distance by moving around workstations, implementing flexible COVID screens, using special post-COVID office furniture, and directing traffic and establishing signage.
- Do a Temperature Check at the Entrance.
One of the individual symptoms of COVID-19 is a temperature reading above 100.4° F. Be sure that managers or office screeners who are conducting temp checks are properly protected using protective screens and maintain social distancing of six feet if employees are screening themselves.
- Set Up Plenty of Hand Sanitizing Stations.
Providing access to hand sanitizing stations throughout the workplace will help remind employees to consistently keep their hands clean. Each employee should be responsible for using an approved hand sanitizer for personal use or use the office stations on a regular basis before touching their faces.
- Deep Cleaning is a Must.
To prevent spread of infectious diseases–including the common cold and flu–it’s simply best practice to establish a deep cleaning routine with your staff, managers or janitorial team so that surfaces and common areas are cleaned and disinfected at least once per day.
- Establish Mask Requirements Aligned With Local Regulations.
Chances are, your local or state authorities require businesses and their employees to wear masks and even provide appropriate face coverings for employees that don’t have one or who forget their mask at home. Hold orientation sessions with employees on how to correctly wear a mask, areas where they can remove their masks (such as the employee lunch or lounge tables, or at their personal workstation) if they are allowed to do so, and ways to communicate with peers while wearing masks.
Educate Employees and Supervisors About Steps They Can Take to Protect Themselves at Work
Employees and supervisors can take responsibility for their own health outside the work place to ensure public safety when they’re on site for work. There are some recommended additional measures each person can take, or employers can implement to prioritize health and wellness:
- Each employee can take their own temperature before leaving for work and alerting managers before going into work.
- Employees who have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual should stay home and work from home so they don’t risk spreading the virus, even if they themselves are asymptomatic.
- Everyone must agree to adhere to company guidelines and work together to implement COVID precautions. If one person dissents, it can cause a ripple effect in company morale.
- Offer additional wellness programs in or outside of the office, such as meditation, yoga, massage therapy, nutrition classes, gentle movement such as tai chi, or simply an “unplug and rest” time after lunch.
- No large gatherings or office parties. Company functions should be held in small groups or postponed until next year.
After socially-distanced commercial furniture and workstations, the most important assessment to be made in an office is the state of the ventilation system. Explore upgrades recommended by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and keep routine HVAC maintenance in place, changing out filters more often than usual.
Open-plan office concepts can present a problem in a post-COVID society, so it’s up to employers to install the right social distancing office furniture solutions and materials to minimize the spread of germs and keep employees healthy.
Recognize the space limitations of your workplace, particularly where spaces are small or narrow so you are able to maintain social distance. Implementing post-COVID office furniture can help.
Social Distancing Cubicles, for example, feature higher walls for better division and shielding while utilizing materials that allow natural light to flow through. Non-porous materials are key! Companies will want to look for enhanced privacy cubicles such as laminate, acrylic, glass and marker board allows for cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces. If your budget doesn’t allow for a full office renovation, consider retrofit solutions for your existing furniture such as space and cubicle privacy screens, desk privacy panels, sneeze-guards, retractable cubicle privacy screens, clamp-on desk dividers, standing desk privacy panels and cubicle height extenders.
Creating marked pathways for kitchens and employee lounges will help direct the flow of foot traffic, reduce bottlenecks and allow people to space apart while waiting to grab lunch from the fridge or sit down for a rest break. Encourage employees to bring personalized items such as phones, headphones, writing tools, reusable mugs or water bottles and other items that can easily be sanitized and wiped down after use if they’re at a shared surface such as a coffee table.
Implement single-serving packaging for food, drinks and condiments and/or or issue reusable items such as individualized cutlery, napkins, glassware, and more. Door sensors and keyless entries can reduce the number of hands on the same small surface.
The Workplace After COVID-19: New Normal
While the idea of returning to work in person may sound a bit anxiety-inducing, the entire company can create a “new normal” and decide on precautions and processes to keep everyone safe.
One of the most effective practices is establishing regular, open communication between leadership and employees while returning to the office. Be honest with employees and with each other. Voice any safety concerns and ask for flexibility from management, or suggest recommendations. C suite leaders can implement suggestion times or forms to regularly collect input from staff.