It is no secret that COVID-19 took the business world by storm. It became increasingly apparent that many businesses were ill-equipped to deal with health crises. As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and case rates are falling, many employers are deciding if they are going to bring their teams back into the office. A main factor in this decision is how safe employees will stay if something like this pandemic happens again.
So how can companies safely bring back employees? Plexiglass between people and floor stickers marking 6 feet? While it is unlikely that these short-term fixes will help in the long-run, flexibility is key. By the same token, employers need to stray away from knee-jerk reactions as much as possible. Make sure every aspect of your office is carefully thought out to maximize your employees’ safety.
It has been noted from the start that the more fresh air, the better. However, opening windows in an office increased energy consumption. To help solve this problem, there is a new type of window design that “allows outside air to be warmed or cooled, as needed, as it enters the building.”
Hand washing and sanitizing stations will need to stay for sure. Everyone is taught in elementary school that this is the best way to fight off germs and infections. When building or remodeling your office space, take into account how many stations you will need and where the best places for them to be installed will be. For example, a station in or right outside of the employee lounge or break room will be ideal.
Of course, in a perfect world, employees would not have to touch anything, resulting in a decreased need for hand washing and sanitizing stations. Several businesses have installed “touchless switches” that use sensors to open a door rather than a door handle. Think hand dryers in public bathrooms meets your office door. Where a business will need to install these touchless switches will depend on the layout of an office.
Open-plan office layouts have become increasingly popular to help accelerate employee collaboration. While these plans aren’t ideal for pandemic settings, employers can still keep it safe for employees without locking them into enclosed offices. This all starts with your airflow systems. Traditional systems will push the filtered air into the office via overhead ducts. While this will increase airflow, the filtered air will be mingling with the “contaminated” air since the warm air that is exhaled will rise. Instead, employers should install more technologically advanced systems that will extract the exhaled air near the top of the room and will deliver filtered air along the floor via vents. While this displacement ventilation system is more complex and difficult to set up, Magellan Construction is more than up for the challenge.
If an open-plan will not work for your company, some businesses have begun to integrate outdoor office spaces for employees, especially in urban settings. This can allow for employees to safely socialize with one another which will allow for better collaboration in projects. This change of environment is also beneficial for allowing employees’ minds to take a break and reset to prevent burnout and increase efficiency. These spaces can also be utilized for private calls and one-on-one meetings for a more informal and relaxed feel.
Another option for a business is to consider not forcing employees back into the office setting, but merely making it accessible for them. This may mean that you have a set number of desks and necessary supplies and technology for employees to come in and use for meetings with clients or when necessary. This system will require companies to disinfect and clean more frequently, but it will also decrease the number of employees in the office at a time.
One positive that the pandemic created was the virtual meeting space. Zoom has allowed for easier meeting and collaboration across state lines and even oceans. When designing a new space, employers need to be mindful of how often and where employees will need virtual conferencing options. These plans should include everything from screen displays to outlets in multiple convenient places.
The team at Magellan Construction has plenty of ideas on how to help your business adapt to a post-COVID world. Contact us today for more information!