The arrival of COVID-19 flipped our world upside down, and now as things slowly open up and workforces start to return to their physical space, we are all finding new ways to adapt. Whereas before we learned to fill the roles of stay-at-home parents, teachers, employees, coaches, entertainers, house keepers, line cooks, etc., now we must brace ourselves for more change as we re-join the physical workplace.
The office environment will be permanently altered to accommodate a more health conscious and socially distant work life. More measures will be taken in order to minimize the chances of another global pandemic shutdown. Over 300 CFO’s were surveyed and it was found that they would prefer only 5% of their work force to be working from home. Therefore, many of us will return to a physical office. So, how do we make our work environment safe and productive from this point forward?
Cushman and Wakefield, a leader in global real estate services, has developed a “recovery readiness guide”, which details a successful approach to re-open a business while addressing both health and social distancing concerns. This plan was developed while Cushman and Wakefield was navigating millions of workers back into offices in China. They learned many lessons during this procedure, and decided to develop a plan to share with their clients in order to make a nearly seamless re-entry plan. The plan is designed around the principles of The Safe Six, detailed below:
- Prepare the building: This will include pre-return inspection of building systems, extensive cleaning plans/schedules, HVAC and mechanical checks, and any necessary changes to the building to ensure safety.
- Prepare the workforce: In order to have a successful re-entry, employers should prepare the employees on new safety and social distancing practices that are to be enforced. A detailed and laid out approach to the changes employees will be facing is necessary to inform and prepare employees mentally and physically for the necessary changes.
- Controlling access: New protocols for entering a building will need to be put in place. For example, employees may need to complete a health check before entry, disinfecting stations can be placed strategically around the office to avoid cross contamination, items in shipping and receiving may need to be sanitized before being dispersed, etc.
- Creating a social distancing plan: Decreasing density will be vital in order to maintain social distancing. This might look like alternating employee schedules, reducing multiple-occupancy office spaces into single-occupancy office spaces, limiting elevator occupancy rates to avoid closer than six feet distancing, stricter visitor policies, etc.
- Reducing touch points and increasing cleaning: Businesses’ can make efforts in order to reduce the amount items are handled. This can be accomplished by maintaining open doors, having a clean desk policy, strict and through cleaning regiments and schedules, creating office traffic patterns, etc.
- Communicating for confidence: Having open and transparent communication between employers and employees will help ease some of the anxiety that will inevitably arise once the workforce begins to re-enter the workplace. This could be a stream of email updates, companywide virtual meetings to discuss upcoming changes and address and concerns, etc.
Both employers and employees must come together to create an office environment that will function in a health conscious manner and promote work productivity. The workspace, policies and procedures should be reconfigured to meet both the needs of the people and the business itself. This requires constant communication among employers, employees, health officials, etc. we now have an opportunity to change our work environment for the better. Hopefully, we will never experience another devastating crisis as we are today, but if we do, we can be better prepared in the workplace.
Tri-North has researched and developed many ways to make the workplace a safer and more productive environment, and we are here to help your business formulate a plan for safe re-entry. One of Tri-North’s greatest strengths is listening to client concerns and addressing each point item by item. Our Service Solutions team is readily available to answer any questions and assess your facility in order to provide you with options – anything from renovations, new touch-less technology, to antimicrobial surfaces. We have revamped the safety of our own workspaces and are here to help you do the same; no project is too big or too small. We look forward to collaborating with you and creating a strong and successful plan for your needs. Hopefully, we will be re-entering the physical workplace soon, a little smarter, a little wiser, and with a new innovative spirit.