As the COVID-19 emergency subsides, storefronts refill with customers and public transport resumes. We can expect to return to the old cubicle offices again anytime soon. However, each of us would undoubtedly see some changes, be it about the office rules and office designs to meet the need of protecting the health and wellbeing of employees.
As employers urge employees to return to work, governments and healthcare advisors suggest businesses to adopt six-feet-office to optimise the physical distancing and hygiene in the workplace.
Cushman and Wakefield’s company has created awareness about six-feet-office. The core concept of this office arrangement is to help employees work safely with their coworkers at the workplace. Six-feet-office is designed with plastic sneeze guards between workspaces that are closer than six feet, floor markings to indicate six-foot boundaries, one-way traffic in all hallways, assigned sequential seating in a conference room, and paper desk pads that employees can replace daily.
Six-feet-workplace-design is a very minimum requirement for creating a virus-free workplace. According to health researchers, the virus (COVID-19) can live on surfaces for days at a time and float for three hours in the air, meaning physical distancing might only help for a brief encounter. Yet, in a room where people are working together for eight hours or more, especially offices that have poor ventilation, the chance to have contact with a virus is significant.
That being said, employers should go beyond providing six-feet-office design. Here are some ideas employers could adopt in order to create a virus-free workplace.
Most offices use heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) that does not bring fresh air but only recirculates the air inside the building which will help the virus spread quickly.
Experts at iChongqing conference suggested that it is important for employers to choose the correct HVAC and understand how the system works. For instance, if employers adopt HVAC with the all-air system, it is recommended to turn off the return air and start the full fresh air system. When the HVAC is a fan coil with the full air system, it should be ensured that the fresh air is taken directly from the outside, forbidding the air from being taken from a machine room or corridor. Employers must also ensure the exhaust system is operated normally. The best ventilation employers can install is that ventilation system that flows air from the ceiling down rather than floor up, preventing the air inside from circulating in the building, increasing the chance to be virus-free workplace.
Adopting the right ventilation system is also one of the main reasons why China could bounce back to normal work life after months of lockdown. China’s office buildings are installing high-end air filtration systems with its own indoor air certification standard. This is time for businesses all over the globe to adopt the same system.
Road markings and signs are vital to guide riders and drivers on the main road – this is also vital to make workplace protocol more transparent, especially in times of the new normal. Employers can place emblems, decals, or floor stickers to make sure employees understand where they should stand and to not cross the line. This is also one of the best ways to keep proper physical distancing at work, reduce density while waiting for an elevator, and signal how many people can use an elevator at a time. Businesses need to communicate with and be very transparent with employees and guests to reevaluate work schedules, assign routing in circulation areas and unassigned seating to establish cleaning and de-densifying protocols.
High touch surfaces are usually the one that contains germs from a lot of people. Although employers can disinfect these surfaces regularly to minimise the spread of virus, employees, just like consumers, want their safety to be the number one priority. Besides, investing in touchless furniture could be a long healthy investment for businesses to keep their current and future people safe.
Employers can use anti-infectious designs on each work desk or use Plexi screens that can protect employees while working in an office. Installing touchless technology for doors, elevators, tap waters, toilets, and coffee makers are also recommended.
As employers redesign office space, they can now install refrigerator drawers for each person in the department. Another option is that employers can have more than one fridge, one for employees and one for the guests or clients. This would help minimise the spreading of virus from touching the same surfaces regularly. In addition, handles need to be disinfected regularly and install some touchless hand sanitizers next to the refrigerator door.
Latex gloves and surgical masks should be available for anxious employees who are afraid to get back to work, making sure that they are protected. Employees can also stock up zinc lozenges as it is proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus from multiplying in throat and nasopharynx. Zinc lozenge is also effective for treating the common cold. Don’t forget about the disinfectant wipes for each of the employees to keep their desk and other surfaces they touch clean.