The way we do business has changed quite a bit in recent weeks due to COVID-19. Some businesses have had to rethink their entire model, while others are looking for ways to implement safety measures without disrupting customers and clients. When it comes to your office space, it’s essential to make sure you have a thorough plan that will give peace of mind to both your employees and your customers. Whether that means offering the opportunity to telecommute or expanding your space to ensure everyone can effectively social distance, there are several things you can do to keep your business running smoothly and safely.
Rethink your space
If your office area doesn’t already have cubicles, you may need to rethink the layout in order to give employees at least six feet of space from one another.¹ Move tables around, create dividers, and remove the need for face-to-face configurations. Keep in mind that you may have to reroute wiring and figure out where computers and other devices will be plugged in or charged, so it’s a good idea to sketch out a plan that you can check visually before you start moving things around.
Don’t forget shared spaces
While there are many things you can do to help your employees keep a distance from one another, there will still be shared spaces, such as hallways, restrooms, and break areas. Talk to your staff about how to keep these spaces clean and disinfected, and promote distance by creating one-way aisles and hallways when possible.
“We’re taking a phased approach and slowly bringing coworkers back to the office,” said Amanda Mettille, Coworker Relations Business Partner for CDW, in a recent interview. “When our offices open, one-way aisles, sanitization stations, and individual PPE kits will be the new normal...I would advise businesses to follow CDC guidelines, state mandates, and take the health and safety of their employees with the highest regard.”
Phase in your employees
One way that some employers are ensuring the safety of their staff is through phasing, which means that some employees come back to the office before others. Allowing a small group in at first will allow you to try different safety measures to see what works best for everyone. You can also allow half of your employees to return physically while the rest work from home. Telecommuting is a great way to help everyone stay well while still earning a paycheck.
“The future is a blended working environment that allows for telecommuting. With the use of at-home technology, teams across our organization are maintaining engagement and productivity,” says Mettille.
Ensure your office building is in good shape
Before you bring back employees or open up to customers, it’s imperative to ensure that your office building is in good working order. Many businesses have had to leave the space closed for long periods of time, or have shut down certain areas of the office until they are needed. According to a Purdue University article on a study being conducted, some of those buildings may have stagnant water―which can harbor bacteria that causes illnesses such as Legionnaire’s disease―that was left in the pipes during those closed periods.² Because these spaces weren’t meant to be closed down for extended time periods, the water quality may have changed drastically.
“COVID patients and survivors could be more vulnerable to this, so when they go back to work we might be concerned about another infection,” said Caitlin Proctor, a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue and member of the team conducting the study.³ As you begin opening up your business and welcoming back employees, it’s paramount that you keep safety measures and new protocols in place throughout the space, from the restrooms to the elevators. Encourage your staff members to communicate with one another through chat services and video calls when possible, even when they are in the same building. Limiting contact can make all the difference when it comes to keeping everyone healthy.