Returning to a Safe and Healthy Office Work Environment Blog Series: Office Environment Setup

Office Environment Setup

By Brie DeLisi

Many of us are in the process of shifting back into office environments or considering the appropriate next steps for a safe return to the office. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken for the physical work environment to ensure employees are kept as safe and healthy as possible. The purpose of these physical work environment adjustments is to ensure employees can be properly distanced to avoid COVID exposures the air and that shared resources limit surface exposures. Considerations should include employee distancing, space resourcefulness, adding structures, air ventilation, shared resources and sanitation.
Employee distancing - ideally employees should be 6-10 feet from one another – consider increasing distances the more employees talk. Some options include:
• Physically space out workstations
• If workstations can’t be separated, clearly identify which workstations are off limits for social distance measures with signage, tape and chair removal
• Aisles designated for one-way traffic flow
• Limit or remove access to communal spaces such as cafeterias, break-rooms, etc.
• Conduct conference calls instead of face-to-face meetings

Space resourcefulness - in order to support employee distancing, make use of all the resources available. Consider the following spaces for redistribution as workstations:
• Meeting rooms
• Training rooms
• Break rooms
• Cafeterias
• Empty offices

Adding structures - consider adding additional barriers to reduce exposure potential:
• Raise cubicle walls
• Add clear shields between workstations, similar to the ones that have been implemented at grocery stores
• Purchase partitions to use between workstations
• Add arm handles to doors to be opened with forearms instead of hands

Air Ventilation – it is important to consider air ventilation as a resource to limit exposure potential.
• Test all air ventilation systems to ensure proper operation
• Increase circulation by opening windows and doors for outside air
• Run ventilation during off hours
• Increase airflow in the ventilation systems
• Add additional HEPA filtration systems

Shared Resources – limit the shared items that multiple people can touch throughout the workday:
• Remove all communal items for public use like coffee pots, bulk food, and water coolers
• Replace with single-serve options

Sanitation - sanitation measures can be taken by all employees, with added cleanings by housekeeping:
• Increase frequency of stocking restrooms with soap and paper towels
• Provide hand sanitation stations throughout the building
• Supply disinfectant wipes for employees to use
• Increase cleanings of all public spaces

Taking these measures can support a safe workplace for your employees and will reassure them that you care about their wellbeing.

Future blog posts in this series will include:
• PPE and Safe Working Procedures
• Preparation for Return - Employee Engagement and Communications
• Remote and Flex Work Options
• Contingency Plan Development