Journal

Social Distancing at Work: Getting Your Office Ready

With social distancing becoming a norm of our daily lives, it's time to rethink the way we work. While it's clear that the physical workplace is not going to disappear anytime soon, it will require a number of amendments to make sure people feel safe when they decide to return.


AK-3-h200820-03The pandemic has shown that physical workplace is not always needed - we can do some of our work from home, replace part of the meetings with video calls and arrange a working desk in the living room. On another hand, it made people appreciate the social aspect of workplace more than ever. Many of us have realised that there is no replacement for face-to-face interactions, with the growing amount of people struggling from social isolation. 

With remote work remaining a commonplace, some people are slowly coming back to the office. The main reason making people want to come back is the ability to have that much-needed social cohesion. Collaboration can be quite difficult with no or limited face-to-face communication. So, how can we keep the social aspect of the workplace and maintain distance at the same time? 

Preparing the workplace for the return

When we return to our offices, there will be changes in place. Among the key measures, companies are already considering: more space, sanitation measures, greater space flexibility and focus on well-being. 

Ensure sufficient distance

Keeping distance at all times remains the most important rule. However, sometimes it is easier said than done. High-traffic areas should be reconsidered first - the use of elevators, corridors and stairs should be regulated in order to limit close contacts and, subsequently, cross-contamination. Consider making hallways and stairwells one way only and put up signs to make it clear.

Also, you need to rethink how people move through the office. With room dividers, you can create flexible routing in the areas where people are likely to bump into each other.

routing in the office with room dividers

Same works for the workstations. Office desks have shrunk over time, but now we will evidence the reverse trend. In order to keep sufficient distance, the workstations need to be spaced out. In addition to increasing the distance, you can add desk partitions to separate individual workstations. This is especially relevant if you use shared desks. With workplace dividers and lamps, you will ensure distance while maintaining the feeling of togetherness.

social distancing at work with desk dividers

 

The workplace dividers allow you to still use the shared desks in case individual desks are not an option. Moreover, they are easy to install and will provide additional benefits, such as noise-dampening effect. These solutions will not only help you adhere to the social distancing protocols, but will also benefit the workplace for years to come. 

Plan the return and new working schedules

With the phased return, it is easier to gradually bring people back to the office and test whether the current social distancing measures have a desired effect. Consider setting up the maximum occupancy for the whole office or for individual zones. This is especially important for common areas, such as canteens and meeting rooms, as these are the places bringing people together.

Another possible option is setting the working shifts. If the office has a very limited space and simply cannot accommodate the required amount of people,  working in shifts can help achieve the desired occupancy without moving to a different office. If you go for this option, you need to time it well to avoid high traffic during the busy hours, when people arrive and leave around the same time. 

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Increase the sanitary measures

Raise awareness around the personal hygiene. You have to promote it in every way possible - hang reminders and instructions next to the taps in bathrooms and kitchens. Installing hand-sanitizing stations also adds to the overall office hygiene. Put them in high-traffic areas and at the entrances of your office.

Next to washing our hands, the clean environment is just as important. Viruses and bacteria can survive on certain materials for a long time. Therefore, regular cleaning of the highly used surfaces, such as touchscreens, door handles and tabletops is essential. Many brands have also developed special anti-bacterial tabletops. This option is available for our tables as well  - contact us if you would like to learn more. 

Basically, everything that we touch should be disinfected regularly. Think of mobile phones, keyboards, laptops - all these devices can potentially carry the viruses. So, if you grab your phone immediately after disinfecting your hands, it makes little sense. That's why you should disinfect your phone as often as you wash your hands now. This way you keep yourself and your environment safe.

However, there is a solution for that as well. In some public spaces, such as hospitals and airports, you can see special disinfection chambers. In just a few seconds, they make all personal belongings virus-free. Now, such device can also be placed right in your office. Consider Vik, this is an innovative uv-c disinfection chamber for offices and other public spaces. While cleaning their hands, people can simultaneously disinfect keys, headphones and smartphones with Vik. Afterwards, these can be safely used again.

Vik uv-c desinfectiekast Model V gebruik 20 - low-res

Focus on employees' well-being

Sanitary measures form just one of many health measures your office needs. In times like this, employees' daily well-being becomes even more important. Think of air quality in your office - proper and regular ventilation can go a long way in preventing the spread of viruses. Where possible, create access to the outdoor spaces and encourage employees to take a walk. Adjust the schedule s that people could have multiple short breaks during the day and spend them outside. All these simple measures will help you keep the team healthy and productive. 

It's all about the balance 

Your workplace is now all set for a safe return. After a long period of remote work, many people might be eager to get back to the office. However, there might also be those afraid of returning to work. The choice should be up to the people themselves, so it's better give them the opportunity to decide. Striking a balance between working from the office and home might be the perfect solution to slowly be getting back to a new normal.

With employees' safety being of paramount importance, remember to keep the regulations at a reasonable level and not go to far with the extra measures. After all, going back to the office should remain a pleasant experience. Nobody will feel that way in an empty, almost sterile place full of plexiglass, warnings and imposed separations. You need to create a soft and warm environment where everybody stays safe yet connected and gets that much-needed privacy without feeling isolated.

checklist for COVID-19 office design