The social distancing measures in place since the outbreak of coronavirus have caused many offices to temporarily close. With restrictions beginning to lift and workers starting to get back into their offices, employers are presented with the challenge of what they can do to ensure employee safety in a post-COVID-19 world. From turning to private shuttles, to moving away from open-plan layouts, this article will run through some of the measures they might choose to adopt.
In this article:
- Goodbye to open-plan?
- New schedules and the rise of remote
- Compulsory testing
- Extensive cleaning
- Smart transportation
1. Goodbye to Open-Plan?
In recent years, open-plan offices rose in popularity and were praised for breaking down barriers and encouraging face to face conversations. In fact, the rise of open-plan layouts meant that in the US, between 2009 and 2017 square footage per employee decreased by 8.3%.
In a post-COVID-19 world, close proximity to other workers in a shared office space could become a thing of the past. Instead, desks may be repositioned to increase space between co-workers, or even facing back to back. Some offices might even choose to install barricades between desks or cubicles, and as a more permanent solution offices might move away from open-plan entirely in favor of private offices.
Traffic flow might also be considered as an area for change. The Business Insider speculates the inclusion of one way walkaways could be an effective way to limit physical contact. Additionally, markers may be added onto floors to remind employees of distancing regulations. In a more tech-forward example, workplaces may even require employees to wear devices reminding them of distancing regulations. This has already been introduced In Belgian’s second-largest port, where workers are expected to wear electronic wristbands that vibrate when they come near to one another.
2. New Schedules & the Rise of Remote
According to some experts, effectively reducing virus spread amongst co-workers relies on limiting the number of employees in the workplace at any given time. KPMG Asia has already begun implementing this approach. The organization has been returning employees to buildings based on floor numbers and giving them schedules with varying start and end times. Additionally, employees are required to spend part of the workweek working from home remotely.
Ultimately, the pandemic has highlighted to businesses that they can be fully operational remotely. According to a report by MIT, pre-pandemic 4% of Americans were working from home, by the first week of April that had risen to 34%. This trend seems likely to continue, as shown by Twitter, who have recently announced that employees can work permanently from home if they wish to.
For those who are new to working from home, the following tips may be helpful to boost productivity and efficiency.
3. Compulsory Testing
For re-opening offices another key measure will be controlling access and closely monitoring everyone who enters. One way they might do this is by requiring those entering to have health checks or to take their temperature. To achieve this, technology might be installed similar to those seen in public transport hubs, which use infrared sensors to detect passenger temperature before allowing them to board.
4. Extensive Cleaning
Potentially not so noticeable but still essential is the adoption of more vigorous cleaning and sterilization approaches. At a basic level, this may involve cleaning surfaces and objects more regularly with disinfectants. At a more advanced level, offices might turn to technology to help. UV light is one possible option and this technology has already been successfully utilized by transport operators. In Shanghai, China, the introduction of a UV light chamber significantly improved bus cleaning time and efficiency.
As a further measure, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that hand sanitizer dispensers and sinks are added in prominent places to encourage employees to keep their hands clean. The WHO also recommends companies display posters and combine this with other internal communication measures to remind employees of the need for personal hygiene.
5. Smart Transportation
As employees return to workspaces, how to get them there safely will become a focus. For some, safety concerns may mean public transport is no longer their travel mode of choice. The UK Government has recommended where possible to avoid public transport and that businesses should provide extra parking and facilities such as bike racks to encourage employees to walk, or cycle to work. However, increasing car parking may not be a viable option for all companies, and for some employees it may not be possible to walk or cycle to work.
Presented with these challenges the use of private shuttles is becoming an increasingly popular alternative. To keep up with this demand HERE Mobility has recently launched its new smart shuttle solution. Smart shuttles offer businesses many benefits including: the ability to oversee cleaning, knowing who is using the shuttle, and being able to ensure distancing regulations are maintained.
HERE Mobility’s shuttle solution also boasts a central dashboard allowing full management of all rides including pickup locations, schedules, and live tracking. An app is also provided for employees enabling them to book their ride, track it in real-time, and communicate live with other riders.
The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in work culture and efforts to maintain distancing will, at least in the short term, inevitably change how offices and workplaces are managed. As identified in this article there are numerous measure offices may decide to adopt, but the question remains: which of these will last in the long run, and which will be dropped as soon as the crisis ends? Time will tell.