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Distancing in the Workplace: The New Norm in Office Design

May 21st, 2020 | Best Office Furniture

The pandemic has changed the way we work and conduct business. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are now embracing the concept of distancing and wearing protective equipment like face masks or shields, gloves, etc.

While working from home seems to be the most viable alternative, unfortunately, not all employees can work remotely. There are still aspects of the workforce that need to ‘man the field’ and physical presence is required to completely make the business fully operational and profitable. Not to mention, the attempt to cease the rising unemployment trend and lower the number of Americans with no source of income.

Businesses that are not able to shift all employees to work from home are now rethinking the way their workplaces are structured. Experts are continuously discussing the possible changes and new policies to be introduced in the office and reimagine how offices are designed, which businesses should consider if they plan to reopen their doors soon. 

While we all yearn for the day that everything goes back to normal or at least have that sense of normalcy, questions of safety from the employees remain. Businesses can’t expect that all employees would feel confident going back to the office regardless of the new protocols and workplace programs implemented. There would still be a part of the workforce who were already safely and effectively working from home for the past few months.

 

Implementing Distancing 

The first step organization leaders should consider is to accept the realities of the situation and list down viable solutions to ensure safety. Discrete measures are required to safely re-introduce employees back in the workplace and distancing is observed.

Transitioning to unassigned seating is a good remedial measure that can be implemented right away. Doing such allows employees to establish their own boundaries and select their own seat at a distance. 

Install privacy panels in shared workspaces. Whether this means traditional cubicles or simple plexiglass screens, adding a separator reduces the spread of germs and controls distancing.

You may also remove seats at conference rooms and communal tables for additional personal spaces. Or, transform these rooms to scrum, or open discussion, spaces and eliminate touchpoints by removing tables.

Implement a clean desk policy. Employees should be encouraged to help the maintenance team keep their desks clean and disinfected. Assigning lockers, cabinets, and individual drawers can also help separate personal items. 

Replace individual trash bins with communal ones to consolidate sanitation. Instead of phone handsets, change them to VOIP communication with headsets. Installing voice-activated controls may also help reduce the need to touch commonly used items.

Consider a four-day work week to stagger teams. This reduces your office density by 20 percent. As for those employees who prefer to work remotely, make sure they are equipped with the necessary office equipment and accessories to help them be productive. 

Limit the number of seats in the reception areas. Organize seats in a way that additional distancing is observed. Reduce communal use of break rooms. If safe distances cannot be maintained, find alternative areas that employees can use to take a break.

We have yet to determine what the full impact of the pandemic will be on the workplace. Hopefully, these strategies can provide directions to business owners.

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