The recent slowdown of the pandemic has made many companies to recall their workforce. Alphabet (Google) will make its employees come to the office for at least three days a week starting on April 4, Apple’s similar policy will begin on April 23 and Microsoft employees will switch to hybrid work based on their individual plans. These major announcements will certainly make facility managers and HR departments busy. That’s why we’ve created a list to help you modernize your office so that your employees feel comfortable coming back.
Allow for fresh airflow
It is essential and there is plenty of it everywhere, so it wasn’t on top of people’s minds. Until now. In a surprising Harvard Business Review survey, 1,600 workers were asked what wellness perks they value the most. And the perk number one was, believe it or not, “better air quality”, followed by “access to natural light” (which we covered in our previous post). Fresh air has enough oxygen to allow the immune system and brain to work properly. Bringing fresh air to the room helps to replace the old, recycled, one that employees exhale and is full of carbon dioxide together with possible viruses. Health & Safety for Ontario Workplaces (WSPS) therefore recommends supplying fresh outdoor air to the room as often as possible.
But it’s not always possible to leave windows open all year round, definitely not in Canada. It is therefore important to focus on choosing the right filter to help to rid the recycled air of harmful particles, including viruses. WSPS recommends using HEPA filters or a MERV 13 filter in your HVAC system. If you do not already have an HVAC system, a temporary solution might be to use stand-alone cleaners, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation units or portable air filtration.
Plan your office layout to allow for social distancing
Depending on your floorplan, it is important to allow employees to maintain a safe distance of at least 2 metres. This will reduce the spread of COVID-19 or any other airborne disease, which transmits through particles or aerosols. Shall your space allow, you can choose single workstations for your employees, with enough of passing space around. If your office layout doesn’t allow for such an arrangement, add transparent barriers. This solution is recommended by the CDC and enables your employees to communicate with each other without the fear of exposure. Modern barriers, such as Side Shield and Transaction Shield, can be easily moved without the tools. Modern barriers also shouldn’t damage your furniture if you decide to move them in the future and are easily reconfigurable. To protect your visitors as well as your employees, choose Counter Shields or Transaction Shields.
Use smart technology to eliminate hotspots
Probably the best thing about modern technology is that it will do the work for you without the need to flex a muscle. The scheduling app can let you know if the meeting room limit has already been reached. And the smart-sensing technology will give you a real-time overview about the occupancy of any room in your building. If that’s not enough, you can also monitor people’s body temperature using a thermal imaging system.
Motion sensors, which are on the rise, are already saving people’s precious time. It is a great example of how to make technology work for people, not the other way around. Imagine never having to look for a switch again and continue uninterruptedly what you were doing. Because as we mentioned in this blog post, every distraction cause your brain to refocus, using up its precious energy. Just recently another great benefit came at the forefront. And it is health. By eliminating points that dozens of people touch every day, you also eliminate the spread of infectious and contagious diseases. Therefore, when thinking about a new faucet or a door, try to include those with hands-free technology.
Choose easy to clean surfaces
The office has changed like never before and with hybrid work on the rise, many offices now consist of hot-desk solutions instead of permanently assigned workstations. The fact that the desk can have a new user every day or even several times a day puts pressure strain on sanitation. To be most effective, we recommend developing a cleaning plan based on how many people will use the surface and how often. When choosing your new workstation, opt for easy-to-clean surfaces that can withstand medical-grade detergents.
Communicate your safety measures clearly
The year 2022 brought new challenges that are coming from all sides. Each employee is individual and sees and approaches them differently. Therefore, it is important to have an open communication channel with your employees and listen in order to create safety policies that work for everyone. Clearly communicated safety measures available to your employees will go far. The employee returning to the office will know exactly what to expect and what is required in advance, which will further strengthen her/his trust in the company.
As the health situation continues to evolve, it is important to keep up with the latest from respected medical authorities, so that you and your team can make informed decisions and even influence your community. Below you will find useful links to help you find your way around.
Up-to-date provincial government screening tools: COVID-19 worker and employee screening (ontario.ca)
Antigen tests for your business: Provincial Antigen Screening Program | COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario
Governmental tools for reducing the spread in community settings: Reducing COVID-19 risk in community settings: A tool for operators (canada.ca)