With many sectors and small businesses starting to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are tasked with creating an office space that is safe for employees. This includes social distancing guidelines as well as other physical protections to help prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some things you can do to make a safer workplace during the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes simple things like signage, setting up some basic rules, and physical barriers you can install to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus amongst employees and necessary visitors.
Create Lobby Check-In and Health Check Stations
In the past, office lobbies were often large open areas where people would congregate, or simply wait for their appointment. Today lobbies are often left empty, and possibly disused. Rather than waste this space, you might want to consider converting your lobby into a health check station.
Plexiglass dividers can be put up to ensure social distancing guidelines are being adhered to. Then temperature stations can check each person before they enter the formal office space. You could also place a hand sanitizer at the entrance to the office space to reduce the chances of COVID-19 finding its way beyond the lobby. Individuals can then sign in and out, to make sure that all capacity guidelines for your building or office are being minded.
Altering Desk Space
Ideally, every desk needs to be six feet apart or more. This can be a challenge in some office spaces. Especially those with cubicles. Moving desks and perhaps repurposing conference rooms into office spaces can help maintain proper spacing. In the case of cubicles, you may need to leave every other cubicle empty.
Upgrading Air Filters
Current research indicates that COVID-19 is primarily spread through airborne droplets. In some office spaces, you might be able to upgrade the air filtration system. It’s not always possible, but it’s certainly something to look into as part of putting in your due diligence.
Install Plexiglass Barriers
Plexiglass is a transparent material available in different thicknesses. You can install it into a wood or metal frame to create dividers. This is the same sort of thing you see being used as a sneeze guard at a buffet line. Since it’s transparent, co-workers can see each other, and even hear each other, though muffled, yet they can’t directly interact. It’s also a great option for high traffic areas.
Some businesses are even using plexiglass barriers to extend the height of cubicles and other workstations. This has the net effect of reducing the airborne spread of the virus if an Asymptomatic person coughs or sneezes.
Use Floor Markers For High Traffic Areas
Just like you see in retail store checkout lines, you can put an X on the floor with tape to note six-foot spacing. It’s especially helpful in places where people need to wait in line. Though you could just as easily place an X at desk stations to help remind employees of the ideal place to sit.
You can also use this method to control the flow of traffic. In the past, people may have come and gone past each other through a hallway. By turning specific hallways into “One Way” hallways coworkers can more easily maintain 6-feet of the distance between them.
Use Video Chat Technology
Businesses of all types need employees to be able to collaborate. In the past, this meant bringing everyone into a conference room. Though you can just as easily use video chat technology and wireless devices to let employees communicate and collaborate without necessarily being in the same room.
Post Capacity Signs
Each room can only hold so many people at a six-foot distance. Posting maximum capacity signs at the entrance to each room helps remind employees of the guidelines. It also helps them be more mindful of keeping to their schedule. If only so many people can be in the lunchroom at a time, then you may need to stagger out the lunch schedule to keep to the safe capacity number.
Assign Employees Their Own Personal Locker Or Tote
Giving each employee their locker or tote for personal items helps reduce concerns about cross-contamination. You can also position locker bays in hallways and other common areas to help create a physical barrier, without simply wasting space.
At the end of each day, the employee can wipe down and clean their workstation. Then stow their personal items in their private locker or tote bin. If you are using lockers in a common area, you might need to establish a staggered schedule for when each employee can access the area. This helps maintain the 6-foot distance between people, even if their lockers happen to be right next to each other
Invest In Hard Surface Office Furniture
Most small businesses that are reopening are implementing deep cleaning procedures for their off-hours. Employee workstations and hard surfaces are then vigorously cleaned and disinfected. This is easy with hard surfaces of metal, plastic, and even wood. Though soft surfaces are much more difficult to effectively sanitize. If you have the budget available, to upgrade your office furniture, you might want to prioritize hard surface furniture that can be wiped down in a matter of seconds.
If your employees aren’t happy with sitting on hard furniture, you could simply purchase an inexpensive padded seat. They can then keep that seat pad in their personal locker or tote bin at the end of the workday.
Invest In Touchless Devices
There are some voice-activated devices on the market today that can do things like open and close a door. This prevents the spread of COVID-19 on common surfaces like door handles. Depending on the size, weight, and type of door these devices are relatively inexpensive, though they may require professional installation.
Invest in UV-C Lamps
UV-C lamps are more commonly found in medical clinics and hospitals. They are essentially devices that use ultraviolet light to help disinfect the air and surface particles. This isn’t the sort of thing you would leave out during the normal workday. Yet they could come in handy for accelerating the after-hours deep cleaning process. Especially, if you are handling deep cleaning with in-house staff.