Preparing to reopen your workplace will require the development of detailed plans for space reconfiguration of the physical environment to support social distancing practices. Organisations will need to rethink density in order to prioritise physical distancing, as well as the potential closure of any communal spaces.
Learnings from Asia indicate bringing teams back in their entirety is unwise and also incompatible with most governments public health guidelines which stipulate social distancing measures are to be followed and enforced in a workplace setting.
In order to open workplaces in a safe and practical way we are anticipating most occupiers will settle on a balanced approach, one that combines a spectrum of physical solutions in their workplace environments and the potential for “rolling occupancy” or a rota type system that sees them bring some people into the office and keeps others working from home, alternating weeks of in-office occupation.
Using this model will require businesses to rethink how they use their space. Floor plans and desking layouts will need to be expertly planned out to ensure exact measures of density can be achieved.
There is increasing speculation that government advice will be to close “communal spaces” so that people are able to socially distance, however you can re-purpose these spaces. While using every other desk may cut your capacity in half or even less, activating your break-out spaces, conference rooms, focus rooms, training rooms, and canteen space as dedicated desk areas can increase the possible headcount of staff in the office while maintaining physical distancing.
It is also important to allocate an isolation room as part of your new workplace planning. You’ll need to develop a plan of what to do if someone becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 at one of your workplaces and this plan should cover putting the potentially ill person into a room or area where they are isolated from others in the workplace, limiting the number of people who have contact with them and contacting the local health authorities. Considerations should be taken for special cleaning protocols in these spaces, ideally with special ventilation or negative air pressure to further reduce exposure to others in the area.
Indicating methods to safely move around your workplace environments, as well as how to exit and enter spaces will be crucial. Some methods for consideration are the following:
One way flows – encourage employees to walk in one direction, creating a ‘one-way’ flow to minimize transmission, as adopted by many hospitals during the current outbreak.
Signage – use signage on the floor to delineate safe distancing practices and assist with pushing flows of traffic through your space in a safe manner.
Widen corridors and doorways – you may need to consider widening corridors and doorways, as well as colour coding each side to ensure people stick to their side!
Our team of designers are available to help you implement evidence-based design strategies to identify the most optimized plan and formulate what density ratio your space will allow. We can help you formulate this high-level approach by working with your existing floor plans to produce colour coded distancing plans that can be quickly implemented. Please get in touch with us here.
This piece is part of our ongoing commitment to delivering resources that will help initiate discussions around getting your workplace back to work safely. More resources are available here.