(IMPORTANT NOTICE: The recommendations on this article about Covid-19 in the office are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)
Amazing changes are shaking work environments as the world tackles the prevention of spreading Covid-19 in the office.
The open office was the trend with clusters of employees sitting together until the pandemic hit. Now, the puzzling question is how do workers keep their physical distance and still collaborate?
How far apart should people be?
Six feet is the best answer, but do you know why?
That’s the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and aren’t likely to be inhaled by other people.
In the real world, people sneeze at different levels of intensity so we can’t accommodate every person, and staying six feet apart isn’t always possible. But we can make adjustments to help create a healthy environment and show workers that your company is looking out for their best interests.
Ways to Help Achieve Healthy Social Distancing in the Office
Photo: Groupe Lacasse Paradigm
Modular furniture to the rescue!
Workers can use their office furniture with flexible set-ups to help keep a proper distance and stay productive.
Here’s what you can do:
- Change seating arrangements
- Install counter shields, desk shields, space dividers, or freestanding panels
- Create modular rooms for meeting space
- Use breakrooms with caution
Change Seating Arrangements
Benching solutions brought workers face to face and side by side in the open office. Remember those long rectangular benches with several people on one side and then several on the opposite side? The only separation between the two sides was a low-profile divider.
In cubicle work pods, employees looked toward each other, but that was before the pandemic hit.
How do you make it work now?
Reconfigure work pods so employees are working at angles and turn their seats so they’re back to back. This minor change can also help create more personal space and privacy.
Once you’ve chosen your seating arrangements, install what are now known as sneeze screens.
Screen styles are tailored to fit a variety of desking options and counter needs.
Use Clear Dividers
Photo: Enwork Acrylic Screens
Challenges create the need for solutions. Dividers may offer protection from the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace and 2010 Office Furniture carries a wide variety of these office essentials.
Don’t worry. Workers don’t have to feel like they’re stuck within canyon walls because the dividers are clear and allow light to filter through. They can work well with rectangular bench seating stations by helping to protect workers on either side of the screen.
The dividers are crafted from glass and can easily be installed. Certain products like the Fulbright Isolate Mobile Glass Screen are easy to re-arrange so they can also be used in places like lobby waiting areas and between office workers.
Partitions can work well in open plan workspaces and restaurants.
Create Signage Guides to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office
Use signs with positive messages that let visitors and employees know the office follows guidelines for personal safety.
Marketing teams talk about the customer journey, but your employees have their own journey from home that leads to the office. Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, advises businesses to create signs with their brand to guide employees as they travel that path. It’s easy to buy off-the-shelf signs, but mass-produced signs can bring on stress since “the color palettes and typography of some signage can make a space feel harsh, dangerous, and unwelcoming. Shifting the design to something more friendly and human can help to instill a sense of community and common purpose.”
Use brightly colored duct tape as guides along floors or walls, and to mark 6-foot distances near elevators, restrooms, the break room, and other places people gather.
Install Architectural Walls to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office
Photo: Trendway Clear Wall
Modular furniture of all types is economical and that includes architectural walls to create conference rooms or delineate private working spaces. You can define private spaces that look inviting and help provide the health security people need. You can create spaces with floor to ceiling walls or cubicles with guards to help reduce the likelihood of moist droplets spreading from one person to another.
Trendway offers three options for offices that want a sleek, modern look: Clear Wall, TrendWall, and Volo Wall. Clear Wall is a floor-to-ceiling solution with no framing between adjoining walls, while TrendWall provides the same services with framing. The Volvo Wall is another alternative that combines aesthetic with functionality with its glass sliding door. Glass options include clear or glazed.
Offices that want a framed wall with a wood grain look can choose the OFS Obeya Architectural Structures. Walls can be open or closed and make it possible to install tables, media equipment, and planters or other accessories.
These are office walls that define spaces without blocking out people.
Greater Use of Teleconferencing in the Office
Photo: OFS Slate Media Wall
Even with all these modifications, social distancing may be even more effective with the use of teleconferencing equipment.
The digital platform makes it easy to livestream meetings. With projectors, screens and monitors to video conference, there is no need to crowd in small spaces and heighten the risk of COVID-19.
Inter-office streaming between floors or departments can help reduce foot traffic and people moving from one space to another.
Modify Food Events and Breakroom Habits
Covid-19 is changing how people will gather in breakrooms.
The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) says social gatherings to celebrate retirements, milestones or birthdays may still be conducted if you’re careful and aware of your surroundings and how you serve the food.
Let’s say a company is providing pizza to its employees. Instead of having the pizza readily accessible to everyone in a buffet-like setup, consider designating one single person wearing a mask and gloves to serve the pre-cut slices to each person. This is much more sanitary as it will help minimize the number of people the pizza comes in contact with. Also, for those who would like to share homemade goods at work, make sure each cookie or brownie has been carefully and individually wrapped, and that the person who made it wasn’t sick.
To help maintain physical distancing during typical workdays, reduce the number of chairs available in the breakroom and stagger break times for different departments.
Use fun signage to mark six foot distances and make sure tables are wiped down after they’re used.
Extra precautions and a few strategic configurations will promote a healthy office environment and help reduce the risks associated with the potential spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
Ask your teams to get involved and supply them with adequate amounts of hand sanitizer.
For employees who are telecommuting, ask if they need additional equipment to work from home. You can create guidelines for home office best practices.
A virus like the coronavirus doesn’t have to shut down operations. Taking smart steps that follow public health guidelines can help make employees feel secure and take ownership of their own health and the well-being of those around them.
Get the Expertise You Need to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office
Get expert advice on re-configuring your office and making it safe. Talk to the team at 2010 Office Furniture. They have more than 45 years of combined experience advising corporations, non-profits and small businesses throughout Southern California.
Read Also: How to Help Protect Workers in Open Office Floor Plans from Covid-19
Main Photo by: OFS LeanTo
Resources & Special Thanks to Respective Product Manufacturers: OFS, Groupe Lacasse, Enwork & Trendway
(IMPORTANT NOTICE: The recommendations on this article are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)