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How To Rearrange Your Office Post-Covid

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Coronavirus has forced offices around the world to close down for the best part of a year now. This has made life incredibly complicated for business owners and employees as they attempt to navigate remote working for the first time.

Transferring services online, working from the living room with kids at home, and maintaining connections between employees have all been challenging obstacles for office-based businesses around the world.

If you run an office, you might now be thinking of ways to reopen this space safely. With the fast distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines around the world, it looks as if 2021 will be the year that we finally return to at least a modified version of normality. 

Nevertheless, COVID-19 is still prevalent in our society, and might be for some time. If you are searching for ways to open your office during or after the pandemic, some adjustments will need to be made in order for the office to run smoothly in a post-covid world.

Let’s take a look at how offices might look after coronavirus, and how yours can operate safely for all employees!

What will work be like after coronavirus?

Nobody knows exactly how our society will be changed after coronavirus. Will masks continue to be worn? Will hygiene levels improve? Will healthcare become universal? We can’t answer these questions yet, but we can make solid predictions about how offices might look after coronavirus. Here are a few ways that office life may change permanently after the pandemic.

  1. An emphasis on continued remote working. 

If your employees and colleagues all had to work from home during COVID-19, many of them may continue to do so. It was reported by Forbes in 2020 that home working increased productivity by 47%.

These figures mean that many companies will choose to keep at least some of their workforce operating from home. Not only can this increase productivity, but home working also improves work-life balance for employees.

On a financial note, remote working also saves a business money on many different levels. There’s the simple fact that fewer in-office workers means a smaller office space is needed to accommodate the team.

This will lower rental and maintenance outgoings drastically. If there is anything positive that COVID-19 has brought to the table, it is that remote working has been achieved across so many industries and can be continued with confidence in the future. 

  1. Less travel, more online meetings.

As remote working is likely to increase, work travel is also likely to decrease after the pandemic. More companies will meet with clients overseas via video link to avoid expensive and time consuming travel.

Once again, we now know that this can successfully be achieved since the pandemic hit and this modus operandi was forced upon businesses. Now, businesses can take these lessons and turn them into a positive – less work travel, less environmental impact, more technological advancement.

How can I make my office COVID-safe?

Now for the crux of the issue: how to rearrange your office to make it COVID-safe. This might require some experimentation and even potential financial investment, but all time and money spent on this transition will make the office safer if any other pandemic situations occur in the future. 

Here is how to make your office COVID-safe in 2021 and beyond!

  1. Distancing the desks.

Your office design was likely not created with a pandemic in mind. This means that the desks in your space are likely to have been positioned close together, to encourage collaboration between employees. However during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is likely to be a greater emphasis on hygiene and distancing in the workplace. There might be a re-introduction of the office cubicle, or indeed a need for a larger office space. 

 

However you achieve this, distancing your employees’ desks will increase peace of mind for those coming into work. Sitting in confined spaces with others is a surefire way to pass the virus on if you have it, so being able to sit in your own two metre space without others is essential in an office nowadays.

  1. More airflow through the place. 

Along with an increased focus on social distancing, it will be crucial to increase airflow through the office space. Ventilating the space with fresh air is vital for allowing any virus particles to pass through and disappear, rather than being recirculated through the office. While your office might previously have been a little on the stuffy side, this is no longer safe under current circumstances.

Most office buildings, particularly high-rise ones, do not have windows that can open wide, for height safety reasons. In this case, it is crucial to keep doors open, as well as allowing employees to step out into fresh air as often as needed. Additionally, investing in air purifiers can assist in making the air you and your colleagues breathe cleaner and safer.

  1. Increased cleaning protocols. 

Most offices these days are kept relatively clean and tidy, but in order for an office to comply with coronavirus regulations, the cleaning protocols need to be stepped up. 

This might mean investing in a 24-hour cleaning crew, or even giving desk owners their own cleaning products in order to keep their personal space clean at all times. This would also involve cleaning devices such as computers, headsets, and communal kitchen areas too. 

Find out more on how to clean your office for COVID-safety here!

  1. Color-coding and other personalisation methods. 

In order to ensure that devices and other objects aren’t passed around from person to person, you could introduce a system that assigns objects to specific employees. This could be something as simple as a colour coding system, a numerical system or even name labelling. Objects included in this system could be:

  • Stationary such as staplers, hole punches, pens and paper.
  • Electronic devices like computers, tablets and headphones. 
  • Catering objects like mugs, plates, cutlery, containers and bottles.

This is a very simple, inexpensive method of making your office safer for everyone. 

  1. Masks required when social distancing isn’t possible.

Nobody likes to wear a mask, but unfortunately they are highly necessary for preventing the spread of coronavirus and other similar viruses like the flu virus. For employees who are going to be in close quarters with others, for example in elevators and office bathrooms, it is essential to impose a mask rule. Although this might not be easy to enforce, keeping on top of mask wearing will help to alleviate any worries people may have about being in the office. 

  1. Increased flexibility.

Keeping your colleagues and employees happy and feeling safe at work means increasing the flexibility of your office environment. Whereas pre-COVID life felt more routine-oriented and structured, the pandemic and its aftermath requires extra support and versatility in the workplace. What does this look like, in practical terms?

  • Paid sick leave for those isolating. One of the worst things that an employer can do in the pandemic is provide inadequate support for those who need to isolate. Make sure your employees can self isolate without sacrificing their quality of life. 
  • Assessing options for remote working. As mentioned before, some of the workforce may prefer to work from home even after being vaccinated. If someone wants to do this, you should review their ability to do their job from home and come to a collaborative consideration. 
  • Respecting the decisions of your colleagues. This means that if a person is particularly sensitive about coronavirus regulations, you must ensure that their safety and wellbeing are prioritized. Of course, the workplace is primarily a place to earn money and get things done, but prioritizing your employees’ health and wellbeing is a hugely important step.

Maintaining mutual trust between employees and employer

In a post-COVID world, we will all have greater respect, trust and appreciation for the good things in our lives. As an employer or office manager, this respect, trust and appreciation should be mutually felt between employer and employees. What does this mean? Well, it can start with a sense of mutual care and responsibility. 

This means reassuring your employees that you are dedicated to taking care of their needs at work, and requiring, in return, that they take extra care of themselves and others at work too. This sense of mutuality can only strengthen the team in the short and long term. 

Final Thoughts

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have all found new ways of existing that we didn’t think possible. No matter how your business, personal life or routine have been affected by the pandemic, we will emerge from this dark time with a renewed sense of what is truly important.

When it comes to running a COVID safe office, you can use this guide to help return to normal as a company while implementing extra safety measures. Your office design and daily operations will ultimately change, but the integrity of your business will remain as strong as ever in the new normal. 

 

PM Today Contributor
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