Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended our work lives. Businesses who had invested so much into their office lease and design not too long ago are now left trying to figure out if their office layout makes sense in this “new normal.” While offices have been attempting to accommodate an increasingly flexible workforce for years, COVID-19 has hastened this transformation. Offices now aren’t only trying to fit more nomadic remote workers into their space but they must now adhere to social distancing and sanitation requirements. Additionally, many offices in recent months have experienced an overwhelming loss of revenue and have had to downsize staff. This begs the question. What can offices do moving forward to make current staff and any prospective new hires feel safe returning to an office and once again become the essential hub they’ve been for decades?
DON’T STAND (OR SIT) TOO CLOSE TO ME
Office workers are requiring less and less space these days. This is because the traditional “office desk” has become a tired passe part of yesterday’s office. A huge workstation is no longer required now that phones, computers, printers, etc. have practically become obsolete. This, coupled with more workers working remote, has made it so many companies can more cost-effectively lease spaces smaller in square footage than what they would’ve needed even just five years ago.
However, if governments mandate something like a six-foot distance between workstations, some companies may be forced to again seek out larger work spaces. This is why many business owners we’re talking to have become more and more comfortable with everyone working remote.
Those businesses with existing open layouts might have certain employees in on one day, others in on alternating days, and continue to serve multiple workers with one large table with chairs staggered or taped off to ensure that six-foot distance.
For instance, the “community tables” or “hot desks” that have become prevalent in open office floor plans may go from seating 10 employees to just 4. This shouldn’t be an issue with more employees working from home nowadays.
Furthermore, much like grocery stores and retail spaces have used directional markings and signs to route foot traffic to better promote social distancing, offices can do this to similarly route higher-traffic communal areas of the office. For example, the area where the copy machine is, a conference room, or kitchen. Floor stickers could also be used to mark where people should stand while they wait for elevators, etc.
Transparent plastic of glass panels, much like we’ve seen at grocery store checkouts lines to protect both the cashier and customers, can also act as workstation enclosures to protect workers while also letting them see and interact with one another.
Don’t Freak Out – Open Office Spaces Are Still Okay
Contrary to headlines like this – “The Pandemic May Mean the End of the Open-Floor Office”, don’t think that an open office space is no longer viable as we prepare for workers to return to the office. They are still much easier to keep clean with limited surface areas for employees to touch.
Costly remodels aren’t as necessary as reconfiguring an existing space to better protect workers. You want to give them some much needed peace of mind when it comes to returning to the office.
It’s all about reducing density. The aforementioned cap on how many employees can sit at one table or alternating desks and chairs to accommodate safe distancing being two examples.
Another. Talking to clients via video conferencing rather than bringing them into the office for meetings. Limiting the number of employees gathered in a conference room or on elevators.
Many offices are inviting employees back to work in phases or cycles. Certain employees or teams come in only on certain days or their arrival and departure times are staggered. These subdivided workforces might be the best way to go for all involved.
Although most companies have already invested in personal laptops, tablets, and phones for their employees, any company that hasn’t done so needs to do so. Providing every employee with their own devices that they can use in or out of the office is more sanitary than shared devices.
CONSIDERING A COVID-19 OFFICE RECONFIGURATION IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA?
H.W. Holmes, Inc. is a commercial construction company that’s specialized for decades on office remodels and office tenant improvements in the Los Angeles area. Contact us today if you’re ready to reopen your office and you’d like a free no obligation quote for a office remodel or office reconfiguration to ensure you do it as safely as possible.