As offices are set to reopen across the country over the next few months, many companies are considering all their options to make the workplace as safe and healthy as possible for returning employees. Companies will need to do more than put hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere and rearrange desks to put employees’ minds at ease.
Regardless of whether your company is heading back into the office ASAP or still managing a remote workforce, there’s still time to make updates with no or little disruption. At Skender, we’re actively collaborating with our clients to modify density and employee circulation to meet social distancing guidelines, and we’re seeing installations and renovations of all sizes. Here are 10 office updates that we’re recommending to support a healthy return to work:
- Dedicate separate rooms for deliveries and visitors. By designating or creating distinct spaces for packages and deliveries and another for visitors, employees can limit contact with people coming into the office.
- Make the most out of reception. Turn the reception area into a multipurpose space for employees to sanitize their hands, have their temperatures taken, and pick up safety equipment like face masks and sanitizing wipes. It can also be the checkpoint and physical reminder for where the “new normal” starts.
- Install signage and floor graphics to demonstrate where and how employees should move through the office. While most employees know they should be keeping distance between each other, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly how far apart that is. Placing stickers on the floor to indicate this distance, or arrows in hallways to determine which way people should be flowing through, can help employees maintain proper distance.
- Add keycard-operated automatic doors to reduce touch-shared surfaces. Limiting the number of high-touch surfaces is a key tactic of containment – and door handles are one of the most-touched surfaces in an office. Automatic doors activated by keycards or ID badges can eliminate the need for those risky surfaces. This is a bigger financial lift, but is worth considering for longer-term health and safety of the office.
- Divide break areas and spread out pantries. The central kitchen and eating area of yesterday’s open office will need to be broken up to curb virus spread. Byinstalling smaller pantry areas around the office, employees can still access these spots without gathering in large groups.
- Upgrade HVAC systems. Since coronavirus particles travel through the air, HVAC systems should be a major focus of reopening efforts. Upgrading HVAC systems with the ability to more carefully filter air and limit widespread circulation can reduce disease spread. This will likely be controlled by the building owner, so it’s worth bringing up when coordinating the reopen.
- Separate benching systems or add dividers between desks. Breaking up current benching systems and spacing them out six feet apart and/or adding dividers between desks that can’t be spaced out can ensure employees are adequately spread out. Adding dividers can be a quick installation or require a heavier lift to build more substantial partitions.
- Add wall-mounted monitors and cameras in conference rooms. Even when offices reopen, many firms won’t bring back all employees or will institute alternating on-site and at-home schedules – so collaborating with the remote workers will require enhanced digital collaboration. Installing tools to promote digital work can naturally facilitate that collaboration.
- Build out new rows of phone booths. Creating new enclosed spaces for employees to take calls can serve the dual purpose of promoting virtual collaboration with remote teams and boosting office health.
- Rearrange existing or install new furniture. Outside of rearranging desks, other office furniture can be spaced out to provide additional seating for employees while promoting social distancing. New furniture with resilient and easy-to-clean materials and surfaces can also improve cleanliness and help employees feel more comfortable.
While the immediate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have quickly disrupted all aspects of daily life – including the office environment – the long-term effects are still forming. We anticipate that these considerations won’t just be temporary fixes, but rather will last past this crisis and transform the workplace for the healthier and better.
Featured image courtesy of Skender.
Visit the NAIOP Response: COVID-19 page for critical resources and knowledge to support you now.
Clay Edwards has managed millions of square feet of interior tenant improvement (TI) projects throughout Chicago. A client-centric and results-oriented leader, Clay is the head of Skender’s Tenant Improvement market and founder of the firm’s Construction Technology and Self Perform Groups. His interior tenant improvement teams are consistently at the forefront of many of Chicago’s top tech, legal and corporate HQ projects. As an industry thought leader, Clay is frequently cited in commercial real estate news media outlets regarding tenant improvement interior construction topics and is often a featured speaker and writer on related trends.