Companies are turning their attention to the way their employees will return to the offices after the forced home-office period. COVID-19 provided us with a global testing period for remote work from home. Now our focus is turning to immediate concern – how should we all return to the workplace?
Returning to work will be gradual, phased-in, and will vary by factors such as location, sector, business type or size, and the health status of workers. It will require continued 2-m social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and other pre-caution measures.
Employers are asking questions about the changes they need to make to ensure that the post-pandemic workplace is safe, functional, and most importantly, builds trust with their employees. Questions like:
· What physical changes do we need to make to our office?
· What new behaviors do we need to encourage?
· How will our recent experience with working from home impact the post-COVID workplace?
· What hygiene and cleaning practices need to be put in place to maintain the health and safety of employees?
· How do we build trust with our employees and assure them that our workplaces are safe?
Through extensive research and discussions with our clients around the world, we have divided the actions that space occupiers will need to take to ready their workplaces for their employees’ return into five categories. The following recommendations represent the current thinking on best practices and immediate actions to be considered.
DESIGN AND SPACE CHANGES
To help maintain the 2-m social distancing, some alterations will need to be made to space layouts and furniture.
It should be noted that for the initial return to the workplace, we see most actions as behavior and cleaning related, rather than space changes. Example of such changes includes:
· In open-plan areas with groups of 4 or 6 desks, occupy every other workstation and mark those which shall be left vacant. This can be rotated daily for different teams.
· Encourage employees to use also alternative areas for work such as conference rooms, phone booths, open collaborative areas, etc. Social distancing shall be marked in those areas to help protect the employees.
· Install temporary clear plastic panel barriers at the reception desk to separate visitors from the receptionist.
· Install temporary clear plastic panels between desks that face each other. If necessary, install temporary clear plastic panel partitions to raise lower panel heights.
· Educate receptionist to know what to do after interacting with a person who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms.
· Some companies may decide to continue taking employee temperatures when they enter the building.
· Support flexible working with flexible employee arrival and departure hours to limit densities in elevators.
· Support continued voluntary home office work to reduce office occupancy.
· To reduce touching of door handles, leave office, and conference room doors open unless there is an absolute need for privacy.
· Encourage people to collaborate virtually, rather than in a conference room, whenever possible.
· Ask that employees clean their desks of all personal items at the end of each day to help full cleaning of the working desks.
COMMUNICATION AND NAVIGATION
· Install signs to inform visitors of distance rules, hand washing and sanitizing, gathering, queuing at coffee stations, and wearing of masks (where required) in public areas.
· Using signage, create one-way, clockwise paths through the space if the space allows it. Tape arrows on the floor to indicate direction.
· In conference rooms, indicate the 2-m social distance and remove the excessive seats to support the distancing.
· Provide individual pen sets to employees which can be used for whiteboards.
HYGIENE AND CLEANING
· Place dispensers of alcohol-based (60% minimum) hand sanitization prominently throughout the space.
· Discourage employees from using other employee’s phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.
· Provide disposable towels/wipes for employees to clean their work surfaces, task lighting, chair backs, and other touchable surfaces in their work area.
· Make cleaning visible throughout the day to help reduce employees’ stress levels and build trust.
· Each night, ensure all touchable surfaces are cleaned including desktops, task lighting, light switches, chair backs, and arms, drawer handles, and desk height control.
· Continue improving technology to continue with remote work. This will help to maintain distancing requirements and will balance the office occupancy during different days of the week. Preliminary findings from Colliers’ Global Working from Home survey, shows that 80% of employees would like to continue working from home at least one day a week after the restrictions will be ceased.
· Install touchless door openers at key locations. In bathrooms, install touchless, motion-activated faucets, soap dispensers, flushing, and paper towel dispensers (or air hand dryers).
These are only examples of the initiatives that companies are taking to get their workplaces ready for their employees’ return. Colliers is continuing to learn from this unprecedented event and will share our insights into how will this experience shape the future workplace in the offices. Back