There is no question that COVID-19 will influence how we work and collaborate in the workplace for many years to come. When your office is re-opened and your team returns to work, your employees may feel unsettled, anxious or fearful about being around their co-workers while performing their jobs as the impact of the virus is still being felt in their lives and around the world. At NORR, we value safety and health in our workplace strategy, and we are committed to providing consultation on your work environment to help you prepare to meet the challenges of the post-COVID-19 pandemic. To make this re-entry as safe as possible for employees, we have been collaborating with our internal professionals across architecture, interior design and engineering, as well as our external partners in healthcare, technology and interior suppliers, to define enhanced programs and systems for the workplace. In this article, our focus is to provide a foundation of knowledge to consider, in advance of the re-entry to the office, based on three fundamentals: Educate, Prevent and Implement.
Best practices will guide new procedures and protocols that employees can follow to manage a safe workplace environment for all. We recognize changing ingrained habits is not easy; biologically-speaking, we’re wired to resist change. Researchers have noted it takes about 40-50 conscious attempts to create a new behavior or habit (such as not scratching your nose or coughing into an elbow rather than into a hand). All employees will need to be well-informed as to the best practices for hygiene and office interactions, but we know it will take some time for everyone to adopt these new behaviors. To fast-track a successful adoption of the new office personal behaviors, NORR recommends training programs, in tandem with the use of touchless technologies. One of the technologies that we encourage is zone messaging with video and audio cues to remind every person of the best response to a situation before they act. This dynamic messaging will be more effective compared to former methods of putting notes on walls or in the kitchen, resulting in a cleaner and more hygienic office environment. NORR will share these programs and engage with business owners on ideas and solutions to keep employees at ease, as well as maintain and increase productivity.
Designing safe environments that prevent a virus from spreading is a heightened focus for our post-COVID-19 workplace strategy. Our professional team has amassed a list of workplace behaviors that consider tactile items with high-touch points. To address interior elements, existing communally used fixtures, such as door handles and light switches, can be replaced with motion sensor devices and interactive technology. We also recommend new counters that integrate medical-grade anti-microbial finishes to help prevent the spread of viruses and germs. The following is a partial list that highlights a few of the areas that can be given consideration:
|Space Types||Conventional||COVID-19 Post|
|Main Entrance||Wall mounted phone with list of office extensions||Touchless motion sensor intercom device|
|Entrance door handle||Automatic door opener with sensor|
|Security Camera||Body temperature detector (non-intrusive)|
|Reception||Reception desk with transaction top for guest signing||Self-check-in counter for visitors. A reception desk with several features can still be incorporated|
|Gallery/Vision Center||Wall mounted display shelves showing awards, products, and historical information||Motion sensor activates the display screen to play the content with sound zone-controlling technology|
The third fundamental is to implement the solutions. Our team is prepared to provide workplace strategy design solutions and associated programs for both the short and long-term. We understand that your employees will have health and safety concerns in open concept workplaces and shared common and amenity spaces. As an integrated architecture engineering and interior design firm, our collaborative design approach draws from our experience in multiple sectors with a holistic understanding of the challenges we are all confronting. While we navigate the current environment and look to the future, we are proactively evaluating new touchless technologies, re-imagining workplace design, and listening to our clients’ safety concerns. Every workplace design has different objectives, but the commonality is that we all need to give immediate consideration to the fundamentals of Educate, Prevent and Implement.