As employees prepare to return to the office, business owners are asking how they can best prepare to ensure their health and wellness.
The days of shared coffee pots, bringing in homemade cookies and participating in face to face conferences may give way to bringing in personal water bottles, individual pre-packaged snacks and teleconferencing when possible.
Social distancing, space requirements and cleaning protocols will change the way we design for and navigate within a space – in the short term, if not forever.
The longer we work from home in large numbers, the newer habits and fresh ways of working will begin to take shape. We are discovering different ways to collaborate virtually. These new ways of working will continue as we return to the office. We should embrace these changes and let them flourish.
Employee health and wellness is at the forefront of most business owner’s minds. As employees return to the office, owners will need to ensure their employees have a clear understanding of the newly established office protocols.
Providing “stay well” etiquette signage throughout your space reminds employees to be considerate of their health and others.
These can be as simple as providing signs reminding them to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds, reminders to stay six feet apart and requiring conference room tables and chairs to be wiped down after use. Some companies are implementing a “clean desk” policy where all personal items need to be kept at home.
With employees isolated at home, the importance of social interaction with their fellow co-workers becomes a new need. Employers providing social connections through virtual social events creates the interaction that people crave.
Access to green space is another important element for employees. Getting out of the office, away from screens and stresses, and breathing fresh air is important to employee wellness.
Staggering employee work hours, setting strict visitor hours and supplying an abundant amount of hand sanitizer, tissues and disinfectant wipes are easy ways for business owners to show their employees they care about their well-being.
However, more action is required to ensure the office remains healthy.
Reworking furniture layouts, reducing the number of chairs in conference rooms, implementing every other seat occupancy within workstations, and spacing out lobby furniture are all ways owners can provide the six-foot social distancing requirements. Companies are also looking into “free address desking” (not assigning desk locations), that allows employees to establish their own socially distant parameters.
Owners may look into updating building finishes to include materials that are inherently antimicrobial or easier to clean and sanitize. Implementing new cleaning protocols with daily disinfection of common high use surfaces is crucial to keeping the workplace clean.
Creating a checklist and schedule certifies it is done correctly and regularly.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, people spend 90% of their time indoors on average, and even more so during the current crisis.
Air quality, from higher outside air exchange to humidification/dehumidification set points, is important, especially in urban environments. This is also a good time to communicate with the landlord to discuss the building filtration and HVAC/ humidity check.
Companies realized quickly how being prepared technologically would set them apart from others when we went into the work from home lifestyle.
This need to be technologically advanced will continue as we return back to the office. As more meetings are being held digitally, business owners must ensure their internet, phone service and computers are all equipped to handle this sudden surge in activity.
Companies need to ensure their employees have the tools and training required to successfully venture through this new technological era. Employers will look for ways to expand virtual tools, audio visual, and upgrades as they prepare for the future.
Rachel Marker is a principal and shareholder in the Fort Worth office of Arcturis, a commercial architecture and design firm located in the heart of Sundance Square, and also president of the Fort Worth Rotary Club downtown. Arcturis offers services in commercial architecture, planning, landscape architecture, workplace strategy, interior design, lighting design, graphic design and branding.