Creating an Office Environment for a Safe Reopen

Man working on laptop at desk.

Although the coronavirus is still prominent, many companies are deciding to let their employees back into the office, starting with 50% capacity. Before employees come back, business owners and managers need to assess their work environment to make sure it follows CDC guidelines. Removing excess furniture, moving apart desks, adding barriers, and enhancing cleaning measures are just a few examples of how to smoothly and safely reopen your office. 

Rearrange Your Existing Furniture

You may be able to retrofit your office space to adhere to social distancing and safety protocols with the furniture you already have. Consider removing excess furniture such as common space chairs and couches, and spacing out desks and chairs at least six feet apart from each other. 

Add Plexiglass Barriers

Hair and nail salons and even some restaurants have installed plexiglass barriers around customer interaction areas in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Although this solution is especially ideal for high foot traffic areas, installing these as a temporary office solution is also a good idea (especially if you have an office with a lot of workers). Place these barriers around individual workspaces, at the front desk, and in conference rooms to help maintain social distancing.

Reconsider Cubicles

Even though we’ve seen a trend in open-plan workspaces lately, returning to cubicles might not be such a bad idea for the time being. Cubicles are designed to section off small areas for individual workspaces, and because of distancing guidelines, this design could be a safer measure than an open floor plan. To reduce the claustrophobic environment of the cubicles of yesteryear, clear plexiglass walls could replace solid colored partitions.

Avoid Enclosed Conference Rooms

The days of conference rooms or enclosed all-staff meetings could be over. Instead of gathering everyone into a small, stuffy conference room where the risk of contagion is higher, try out open spaces in the office or even outdoor areas to have meetings. This will help out the airflow and allow employees and clients to spread out.

Repurpose Communal Areas

Communal areas such as lounges, kitchens, dining rooms, and large meeting rooms can be repurposed for additional desks and workspaces. This will make spreading out desks and chairs easier and eliminate the risk of large gatherings that could potentially be hazardous. Outdoor spaces could be another place for temporary individual work stations, weather permitting.

Open the Windows

Instead of cranking the AC this summer, why not try opening the windows in your office? Opening windows allows for better airflow and circulation, while the recirculated air of the air conditioning unit could be contaminated and spread more viral particles. 

Change Up Your Reception Area

You probably will be hosting less in-person meetings than usual because of the pandemic, so why not turn your reception area into something more useful? You can repurpose your reception area into a decontamination area, with a hand-washing station, sanitizer, free disposable masks, a nontouch thermometer, and a log-in book for employees and visitors.

Additional Safety Tips

Here are some additional safety tips to make your office a safe and healthy place to return to work:

  • Add hand sanitizing stations throughout your office (you can mount nontouch disposers on the walls).
  • Provide single-use or washable masks.
  • Frequently sanitize and clean surface areas.
  • Add additional signage about things such as hand washing and staying six feet apart.
  • Avoid communal events such as staff celebrations, buffet lunches, or large meetings.
  • Consider scheduling employees in shifts to work from home and in-office on different days.
  • Keep an open ear (and inbox) and solicit tips and advice for better office protocol.

If your office needs any furniture to adhere to your new post-quarantine layout, JH Carr can help. We’ve been covering corporate office furniture needs in the Pacific Northwest since 1938, so you can rest assured you’re in the right hands. Send us a message today to get started!