As part of our ongoing research efforts to better understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 and develop solutions for the ever-changing future of the workplace, we’ve taken a closer look at how we can apply healthcare design principles to the workplace and create a heightened level of safety in the workplace.
Healthcare-grade work environments have become a top priority for corporations across the globe, no matter their location, language or profession. Now more than ever, employees are seeking assurance that their work environment promotes both their physical and mental wellbeing and these recent developments have shifted workplace trends so that cleanliness and hygiene sit firmly at the forefront of office design. So, what can we borrow from the principles of healthcare design to provide the highest level of protection and ensure employees are safe in the workplace?
The overall facility layout of a hospital or healthcare campus requires more considered approach than most other areas of design. Intelligent space adjacencies take into consideration not only the efficiency and speed at which patient care can be performed, but also require specialist hygiene consideration to ensure high risk environments, such as intensive care units and operating theatres are at “negative pressure” to ensure polluted air from flowing into surrounding areas.
This same theory can be applied in the office to divide space into zones based up on purpose and personnel interaction. When configuring your office layout take care to consider how the space can be split into public and private areas, keeping space, as well as entrance and exit routes for visitors separate from employee work zones. Similarly you may want to consider keeping collaboration spaces separate from individually dedicated work stations to help reduce and control the risk of virus transmission.
A well-defined zoning strategy can also help to track the flow of people throughout your office, so that if your workplace has a confirmed infection, people who have been in close contact with the patient can be easily identified.
Key to standard healthcare design globally is the deliberate separation of people and logistics to help prevent cross infection. Hospitals and healthcare providers are required to have special transport routes for medical waste and these areas have their own unique protocols for cleaning and disinfecting.
While most office buildings have front of house and back of house areas, as well as other measures to keep logistical activities out of sight, such as separate passenger and goods lifts, loading docks and freight elevators, these areas may not be carefully managed and their separation may not be fully effective for the means of preventing virus transmission.
We strongly recommend these routes are kept separate and that strict hygiene controls are effectively managed and maintained. Ensure any logistical deliveries or personnel entering the building are properly recorded with times, and dates of their entry and exit times. Ensuring logistical and non-logistical areas are cleaned and their waste disposal’s are different from each other will also mean that if infection does occur, the interaction between these two groups of people has been kept to a bare minimum if at all. Additionally you can look to create one way flows of traffic through logistical spaces to minimize transmission, as adopted by many hospitals during the current outbreak.
The current pandemic has sharpened the focus on personal hygiene in every setting. Medical methods for disinfection and improving overall environmental safety can be brought into the workplace by adopting some of the following methods:
Easy-to-sanitize or naturally germ-resistant materials and finishes make it easier to maintain the high level of cleanliness necessary in a hospital environment. There are a number of non-porous, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial hard surfaces and products which are common place in hospital settings, that can also be used in the workplace. Suitable replacements may include: silver ion, copper infused or Nanotechnology integrated surfaces for high touch products as these kill certain bacteria automatically.
Ensure you have enough hand washing infrastructure and ensure your existing infrastructure is ready to use. Much like you would see in a hospital setting, place antibacterial hand washing units near entrances and exits is a great way to encourage people to clean their hands before entering your office. Provide situational cues, messaging, and branding to engage and educate all building occupants in proper hand-washing practices. Performing an analysis of the building’s layout for other conspicuous locations to place hand washing stations is also recommended to reduce microbe transmission.
Many of the technology solutions we have put in place in the workplace over the past years such as touch screens or remote controls are reliant on touch technology. However in most hospital environments these technologies have been phased out in recent years and technology has transitioned to replacing touch with gesture. Examples include automatic soap dispensers that operate with a gesture sensor, or waste bins, swipe card building control access or more simple gestures for non-secure access control such as automatic doors.
Throughout the pandemic we have taken a proactive approach in staying up to date with new learnings and data to help change the future of the workplace for the better. For more information on best practices for infection control in the workplace or for specific information on how you can implement these measures into your office, email us here.