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07 - May - 2020

The Three D's of Office Furnishing for Post-COVID19 Return to Work

Following crises of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic, there inevitably are going to be significant impacts felt throughout all aspects of society. Prior to 9-11, we never dreamed of the security measures that are the new normal in airport security. We never imagined there would be security stations upon entering many office buildings.

The same is likely to hold true for what is to come following the coronavirus pandemic. Longer-term, the bigger picture will likely include new sets of regulations along with design thinking intending to mitigate the likelihood of future pandemics. That could potentially involve new work from home policies for many businesses, new federal, state and local government regulations along with more widespread adoption of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Telematics.

While the longer-term impacts will be defined in time, we see there being critical, immediate actions organizations can take to make sure their employees feel confident that their health and well-being are being taken care of by their employer as we anticipate returning to work. Employees deserve to be confident that they aren’t putting themselves at risk in order for all organizations to begin the process of returning to work once the say at home orders are relaxed or lifted. And they want to know their employer is doing everything they can to provide a safe working environment.

At CI Select, we refer to these actions as the three D’s—distance, division and disinfection. These are three steps every organization can take right now to prepare their workplace with the aim of providing their employees confidence that returning to work doesn’t put their health and well-being at risk.

If We Never Heard the Term Social Distancing Again ...

How many of you could say that before this year, we had ever heard the term physical or social distancing? Probably not many of us outside of healthcare. But the term is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And with that, organizations will need to relook at their space with that in mind.

Our understanding for the short-term is that there will most likely be some sort of rolling or rotational system for some employees to continue working from home with others coming into the workplace.

  • How do we accommodate employees who will be working from home who don’t have a home office set up?
  • How do we modify the layout of our space to create more separation between workstations for employees to maintain appropriate physical distancing?
  • What do I do with all of the furniture I’m removing from our floorplan to accommodate the space required for physical distancing?

Creating some new dividers while removing others.

With the open floor plan came a variety of lower profile and more open workstations to accentuate the openness of the environment. All of these were intended to add to the benefits of the open floor plan to enhance collaboration throughout the organization.

  • But now, in the wake of the coronavirus, these all become openings for contagions to spread. How do we preserve to the best of our ability the efficiencies and aesthetics of the open floor plan while reducing the possibility of the spread of the virus?
  • What adjustments can we make to or workstations that can stop the spread of contagions while preserving the open feeling?
  • How do I open up visibility into our lunch and break rooms so our employees can see if there is enough room in there for them to safely enter?
  • We have all sorts of controls and remotes in our conference and training rooms. Is there a way to make them more hands-free?

Shifting from Cleaning to Disinfecting

It’s always been important to keep our workplaces clean. It is a more professional and buttoned-up appearance when visitors come to your offices, whether they are prospective clients, employees or partners. You want to project the positive image of your business and your brand. And with that, your office space is regularly cleaned by a cleaning service. But now, clean isn’t enough. It needs to be disinfected. It needs to stand up to anti-viral cleaning solutions and even diluted bleach solutions to rid the germs across the office surfaces.

  • What do I do with all the cloth and vinyl dividers and partitions we have so they can be cleaned and disinfected?
  • How do we incorporate good hygiene practices into our workspace in a manner that’s convenient for our employees?
  • Are there other flooring options besides the carpet tiles we have that would stand up to the rigorous cleaning requirements?

Every workplace is different. Every company is going to approach the return to work in ways that make the most sense for their organization, their employees and their customers. All of us will be looking at health and safety of our employees in new ways knowing how critical it is that they have the confidence that their return to the workplace won’t jeopardize their health and wellness.

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