(IMPORTANT NOTICE: The recommendations on this article on how to help protect workers 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.)
Open offices are facing changes as companies work to maintain a healthy workforce and answer today’s most critical question: How to protect workers from the risks of Covid-19.
Don’t expect drywall to suddenly appear and start separating workers. Risk mitigation plans can include modular furniture solutions to maintain an open office atmosphere while helping to protecting
How Open Offices Became Popular
Photo: National Epic
As Silicon Valley started booming in the early 2000s, start-up tech companies needed talent to work closely in collaboration with each other. Office spaces without walls provided a non-traditional communication flow that worked well.
The rest is facility history as companies in all industries found that open offices were budget friendly and flexible. It was easy to add workstations when hiring more workers or change floor plans to accommodate fewer workers. Permanent walls were a mess and costly to re-configure.
Why Open Offices were Criticized
Privacy became something of the past and the hoped-for collaboration took a hit as employees wore earbuds and noise cancelling headphones to block out the conversations and phone calls of co-workers.
Instead of providing a place to focus, critics said the open office was filled with distractions.
Open Offices Needed Private Spaces
Photo: Senator Group Chemistry
That shift created the need for personal break areas and one-on-one or small group meeting spaces. Office furniture reflected that demand with innovative meeting pods and the design of flexible workstations.
Open Offices Risked Germs Spreading Before Coronavirus
An office space is a breeding ground for bacteria and germs passed from one person to another. Moist droplets travel whether they’re in the restroom, the breakroom or on the main office floor. In 2011, a Danish study found that open office workers had a significantly higher incidence of sick days than those working in “cellular” or individual offices. The findings were published by the National Library of Medicine.
But there’s no need to cancel the open office floor plan. Help protect employee health using modular furniture and accessories.
How Open Offices are Using Modular Solutions for Protection
Photo: Friant Shield Panels
Open offices faced criticism, but just think of all the open spaces people normally gathered in like neighborhood pubs and restaurants, sporting events, concerts and parks. Innovative solutions are already available.
An array of protective office shields and dividers are available through 2010 Office Furniture:
- Counter shields, health-care grade sneeze guards
- Desk shields, a transparent wall to help protect from germs while giving users plenty of space
- Space dividers, between individual desks and cubicles
- Freestanding panels, laminate panels to divide rooms into personal spaces
The different styles of dividers allow you to help protect workers without making them feel isolated or cut off from other co-workers. You can help reduce the risk of spreading viruses but maintain an atmosphere of collaboration.
Space Planning for the Office in the Post-Pandemic Era
Adjust floor layouts to create physical distancing. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) takes a comprehensive approach to planning offices for employee health and well-being. In its online coronavirus resource center, the IFMA recommends thorough space planning.
Adjust workstations to give employees the recommended six-feet of physical separation or purchase new, flexible workstations.
Know how many office visitors to allow in at one time and eliminate items in high-touch areas like light switches. Update traditional doors that have handles with automatic doors. Provide plenty of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. Encourage workers to wear masks when necessary.
Photo: DeskMakers ReFit
The team at 2010 Office Furniture has decades of expertise helping established corporations and small-to-large sized businesses plan their space to adjust to changes in the marketplace and respond to the question of how to help protect workers in our current pandemic.
Use this time to re-imagine how your office is laid out. Check the 2010 Office Furniture office inspiration center for designs ideas to help create privacy and focus.
More Tips for a Healthy Workplace
Photo: Loftwall Split Space Divider
Remember other key office wellness tips like encouraging your team to take breaks and go for walks outside to keep the blood flowing. Stay hydrated throughout the day and maximize the use of office plants to bring nature indoors and keep the air fresh.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends that businesses give employees flexibility to:
- Work from home if not feeling well
- Care for ill family members
- Return to work without a health provider’s note if the employee has a respiratory illness
Helping to reduce the risks of spreading the coronavirus doesn’t have to halt your office operations. Make the needed changes and get your employees to join in and take ownership for their health and the well-being of those around them.
Photo: OFS Staks Workstations
Making adjustments shows that you care about your team and that you want the best for them.
The organizational consulting firm McKinsey concludes that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for offices on how to protect workers against the spread of coronavirus. How offices will look “will be based on what talent is needed, which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary for excellence, and where offices are located today, among other factors.”
Get the input you need on planning, ergonomics and desking solutions. The team at 2010 Office Furniture has more than 45 years of experience working with large corporations, non-profits and small businesses throughout Southern California.
Contact them with your project needs and questions.
For Your Reference
Here are links to public health agencies in Southern California:
Read Also: Social Distancing Tips and Adjusting to the Realities of Covid-19 in the Office
Main Photo: Friant Interra
Resources & Special Thanks to Respective Product Manufacturers: Friant, National, Senator Group, Loftwall, OFS, DeskMakers
(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.)