Immediately COVID-19-19 hit the world, so many things changed. We had to adapt to this pandemic and put our safety first. To curb the spread of COVID-19, employees were sent home. Preventing the spread will remain the key driving factor even when employees return to work. How we will achieve this is now the primary concern.
Given the weight of the matter, companies will have to restructure their offices to keep employees safe. There will be so many changes to make sure companies adhere to the set hygiene guidelines and health measures. Companies need to plan ahead on how they will go about safety principles once employees return to work.
Ways to Draft a Safe Office Layout in the COVID-19 World
There are hundreds of safety recommendations and yet, there is no final solution on office working space. However, companies may utilize diagramming tools to give their employees a safe working space. The tools will also help businesses adhere to health guidelines. Diagraming tools are primarily used to map events and meetings. However, they can also be employed in designing a safe and productive workplace for employees. Here are tips on how to utilize diagramming tools.
Redesign office flow
How employees are entering or leaving working areas is essential when it comes to preventing the spread. To create an overall safe working area, make sure that employees are not walking in close contact with each other. Discourage this by creating a one-way footpath and decreasing office roundabout lanes. Redesign the whole office set up, including how employees move around, how they get in and out of the offices and how they mingle in the working areas.
To redesign a safe office layout that adheres to social distancing measures, you may use stickers on the floor. Put the stickers in public places where employees may come in contact. For example, place social distancing stickers outside washrooms and ensure the information on the sticker is easily understood at a glance. You may also include arrows in the stickers to direct workers on which way to walk in and out. See Covid 19 Regulations
Use plastic shields
Utilise plastic shields to create safe barriers to avoid employee contact. You may set up the plastic shield in the reception space, or at each available desk in the working area. This will help create partitions that encourage safe spaces to prevent contact. Divisions encourage isolation such that no droplets reach another employ when one cough or sneezes. Additionally, employees get a private working space which encourages confidentiality, giving workers peace of mind as they work.
Initially, plastic shields were used to encourage privacy in the working space. Currently, as much as the guards will still encourage privacy, the main objective is to create a physical barrier which is the current solution to the pandemic. Employees will feel safer working in physical obstacles which in turn increases productivity.
As much as we are keeping social distance in offices, we must ensure we don't overdo it. According to experts, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of psychological effects due to the physical separation that we must adhere to. Therefore, as companies utilize plastic shields to create barriers, they should make sure not to overprotect workers and make them feel like they are in prison. This will cause more harm than good as workers will not work freely. Companies should go for the best and yet affordable plastic shields available in the market to help create a safe working space.
Keep safe space between desks and furniture.
Besides using plastic shields and reducing foot traffic, you can maintain a safe space between desks and furniture. Change the whole set up to come up with one that encourages social distancing. Make adjustments if need be to keep a social distance recommended by health guidelines. However, spacing desks depends on the office size, in case your office size is small, make necessary adjustments to suit workers and include staggering workdays.
Divide the work area into two where one half comes to work on Monday and Wednesday and the other half comes in on Tuesday and Thursday. This are challenging times; therefore, we must make tough decisions to remain in business and still prioritize our safety. Experts suggest that the cleaning staff should ensure they don't have any personal item with them as they perform their duties.
This is because such things are a liability. Try as much as possible to implement developed hygiene equipment such that cleaning is only necessary after employees leave the office. Apply available features like the diagram check feature, which helps to check if your office meets the required standards.
Have temperature checking points
You need to conduct regular health checks on your employees. Businesses can do this virtually or in person. This has to be daily and should maintain the social distance principle. Both those checking and those being checked need to keep physical barriers to reduce contact. If possible, do the checkup outside to avoid crowding and enhance air circulation. Apply this technique by including a health station to check the temperature with stickers to give clear directions and map the area.
Increase sanitizing stations
This should be a basic necessity to everyone not just in the working space but even at home. Employees need to sanitize and clean their hands before and after every break, before and after work, after visiting the washroom, after sneezing, coughing and blowing the nose, before making or eating food and after putting or removing face masks. Utilize the available working space and install sinks with running water in several areas to encourage hand washing.
You may go for moveable sinks and include sanitizers as well as soaps in your sinks. Additionally, encourage employees to have personal sanitizers that fit in bags to be used when water and soap are not available. There is numerous hygiene equipment available in the market to choose from. Go for affordable hygiene staffs and if possible, those that are automatic like soap dispenser since they minimize touch, which helps curb the spread of COVID-19.
Update office materials
Invest in easy to clean office materials like the tile floor to encourage hygiene. Besides, go for materials that even when cleaned thoroughly with strong cleaning detergents will not spoil. As much as you want to invest in robust materials, make sure they last longer so that you safe on cost. Make sure you buy these things from experienced and qualified companies to avoid purchasing fake materials.
Go for no-touch amenities.
Invest in a no-touch trash can, soap and sanitizer dispenser and if possible, advanced no-touch water taps. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen significant touchless innovations that are safe and help prevent the spread of the disease. Invest in such amenities to give your workers a safe and hygienic working environment.
There is also an advance mobile coffee machine as well as voice-activated meeting areas which you can invest in. All these amenities are contactless, which make them the ideal solution in this COVID-19 era. Invest in as much as possible of these amenities and install them in your office layout.
Make the most of signage.
The set preventive measures like hand-washing and social distancing may be seen as second to nature. People may start well by following and implementing these measures but later go back to their old habits. Some habits are so natural and we were so used to them, therefore, going back to them is very easy. For example, employees may shake hands after meetings or hug each other in the morning as a way of greeting.
All these habits are dangerous during the COVID-19 era and may help spread the disease. To prevent this, set frequent reminders in all workplaces to remind employees every time they want to revert. Apply this technique by putting signs everywhere and customise them such that they can easily be seen and read.
Adjust eating areas
Make sure you set safe and well-spaced dining areas. You may have to adjust the size of your dining table and the number of chairs to adhere to the safety regulation measures. Go for dining set designs that can accommodate enough people but at the same time, maintain a safe distance between employees. In case you have more employees; they will have to go to the dining area in shifts.
We have looked at several strategies to redesign your office layout. Due to the weight of the COVID-19 situation, we have to adjust to want we need rather than want we want. When it comes to a working space, the hub is necessary as it simply allows communication and business operations. These are the fundamental principles that govern the space-time office.
Working from a fixed location
The hub supports working from home. It acts as a refresher or rotator. It contains cohorts which work both virtually and in person.
The area you need at a specific time you need
In the COVID-19 world, we are working with what we need and not what we want. Businesses need to employ techniques they need to remain in operation. We don’t necessarily need a luxurious working space to run operations. This principle emphasizes that we use what we need rather than what we want. The reservation system in the hub ensures there is a working space to run business operations even if it is not what you want.
Access to both single and multiple locations
The organization becomes multiple locations where employees can work from anywhere. Audio-visual communication is used to pass information across the locations. This helps minimize contact and movement.
A measure between time and occupancy
Employees may visit the space-time office in shifts. This will help minimize crowding and contact in the working space. Since physical distance is critical in the COVID-19 world, this principle will help achieve the necessary measures.
Utilise technology constructively
Technology aids ineffective communication. During the COVID-19 era, utilize the technology to support communication. In the current world, you can communicate virtually with employees. You can even conduct virtual meetings.
Office structure, a common good
This principle supports utilising spare time for organizations without enough working space. As much as it is an essential principle in organizations, it may be hard to implement it before a COVID-19 solution is found.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many changes. Safety is now our priority. However, we still need to continue with the necessary activities. Businesses must remain in operation since we also need a stable and working economy. We, therefore, need to make adjustments to ensure our working areas are safe. The office space is one technical area that needs several adjustments to give a safe working environment. Technological developments will help maintain secure working areas once employees return to work.