The pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we work. The business world has embraced remote work and has realized that it does not have to equal decreased productivity. Nevertheless, this new approach to doing business doesn’t mean all the traditional ways are dead. For various reasons, it’s often necessary for employees to stop by the office. In fact, it’s important for employees to be able to step outside of the virtual atmosphere and enjoy the benefits of in-person interactions with colleagues and clients. During the pandemic, many employees have only had interactions with others via phone calls, video calls, and email exchanges, making interactions in the shared office space all the more important.
All businesses from small companies to large corporations have had to take COVID-friendly measures to decrease potential viral exposure. Even with some employees spending part of the work week at home, it’s still important to have a safe and well-designed office space to serve as a home base.
Do not touch!
It is well known that touching infected surfaces increases virus transmission. Employees working from conventional offices often need to interact with common elements such as printers and other office supplies. Nowadays, technology can help substitute some of these interactions: automatic doors instead of door knobs; sensored faucets; even motion-detecting lights. Providing smartphones and laptops for all employees who need them means no sharing is required. In the breakroom, using touchless coffee dispensers may also reduce COVID exposure.
Keep it clean!
The best way to keep the workplace clean is to remove as much furniture as possible. Each department should have their own storage space to cut down on interdepartmental handling of cabinets and other surfaces. It’s worth contracting someone to clean common areas and make sure, for instance, that the toilet paper doesn’t run out so employees don’t need to touch multiple surfaces looking for it.
Many workplaces need to limit kitchen usage. Companies can set timeframes and schedules for employee usage of the space to allow for social distancing. Larger tables may make keeping a distance more manageable. Additionally, staggering break times and working hours can avoid crowded halls, elevators, etc.
In regard to workstations, open floor plans have become more popular in the last decade. In these spaces, plants can be a good alternative to furniture to separate office areas, prevent crowds from gathering, or even to direct users to specific paths.
Closed floor spaces can help keep viruses controlled by preventing the congregation of large crowds and by maintaining more social separation. However, the social aspect of getting back to the workplace can be lost.
Email communications are great for letting employees know there are new policies in place. However, employees may not remember all the new details of sharing the office space. It’s important to maintain awareness through impactful visual signs all around the workplace.
Professionals are meant to help
Of course, all office spaces and businesses have their own unique situations. These tips are just a few that companies might consider when considering thoughtful and safe use of shared spaces. A professional designer can help a business determine which changes might be most beneficial for their individual circumstances.
While considering the possibilities for converting a workplace into a more COVID-friendly space, know that we at Wall and Wall would be pleased to assist in this process by sharing our workspace design experience (and of course by adding some color with our wall murals!).
June 1, 2023