The physical workplace is where connections are made, innovation is fostered and culture is grown. It’s also where employees have access to the people, tools and resources they need to collaborate and innovate most effectively. But getting people back to the workplace safely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will require some significant changes in workspace design, processes and technology. Companies should be thinking about what needs to happen now and in the near and far future to evolve their spaces into safe, functional environments that meet needs for physical safety, employee wellbeing and productivity.
A return-to-space strategy should include several elements.
Design: Most workspaces will need to be reconfigured to reduce density and prevent the spread of pathogens. Strategies include reducing seating in common areas to promote social distancing, eliminating shared desking, changing the geometry of furniture, installing partitions and screens to create boundaries, and posting signage with safety and physical distancing cues. Overall spaces will need to be flexible and adaptable to support the changing needs of employees and businesses.
People: Effective communication and clear health and safety protocols will go a long way towards making employees more comfortable returning to the office. Your policies may include daily health screening checks for employees and visitors, installation of sanitation stations, use of masks or other PPE, and communication of personal hygiene expectations. Don’t forget employees still working from home full- or part-time: establish clear protocols and guidelines for at-home work, set up regular check-ins, and make sure at-home workers have the right tools, technology, training and furniture to maximize productivity.
Technology: Technology can help improve communication, safety and productivity in the post-COVID workplace. In addition to the virtual conferencing and collaboration tools you’re probably already using for remote work, consider leveraging employee-facing apps for health screening and company news, digital signage to communicate evolving safety protocols, and touch-free room reservation systems and other hands-free devices. Occupancy sensors can help companies make data driven decisions to reduce density and identify under-utilized spaces.
Organizations need to strategize how they can retrofit their workspaces for now, reconfigure for the near-term and reimagine for the future. The role the workplace will serve in the future will be more important than ever. NBS offers integrated interior solutions to help companies get people back to work faster while being safe and smart in the process. Download our free Return to Space guide here.