Verrrry slowly but surely we are returning to the workplace, an average of 25% by the end of the Q1. Here in the Netherlands, the government has established the social distancing distance at 1,5 meters. Although this varies per country.
Research has shown that infections happen more often and easier when indoors and being close to one another. And so organizations have to do their part in keeping buildings clean and safe as well as keep spreading awareness to employees. All Facility Managers are pioneering and trying to figure out the best ways to enable a safe return to the workplace.
So, how can companies like yours manage the 1,5 meter workplace and what measures do you need to take?
One of the important measures to put in place is signage. Use stickers for example to show where people can and cannot walk. It also shows the pathways to certain common areas including conference rooms or staircases. Additionally, you may want to use barrier tape to show pathways or restricted working areas. Stickers can also mark where people can stand still. Also, you can use stickers to mark cues in front of reception areas at appropriate distances. For staircases or elevators, stickers might not be enough so also think about the entrances and pathways that can be used throughout the building to prevent as much run-ins as possible. The brighter the stickers are, the better as this will make them stand out.
There are three fairly easy things to do that directly impact one's health. The first one is to make sure people are able to sanitize their hands. Place sanitizer dispensers with sensors at the entrance, in common areas and on every floor for example. Washing your hands with alcohol (60%+) on a regular basis will kill the bacteria and prevent that the bacteria on your hands reach your face and get you infected. Also, check your air installations. A thorough circulation and filtering air in the office helps to keep the air as clean as possible so that the virus does not get a chance to spread through the air. Last but not least, almost none of the current offices are built to maintain distance at all times. This means that even after changing the furniture, in some areas it will be impossible to maintain distance. In these areas, you may want to obligate employees to wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose.
Work in shifts
Because of the social distancing rules impacting the floor lay-out, there simply are less desks available at once. Also, you want to decrease traffic in the building as much as you can. Therefore, most companies work from home as much as possible but there are many professions that are hard to perform from home. To solve this problem, you can decide to work in shifts. This could mean 50% of the employees work at the office from Monday till Wednesday and the other 50% work at the office at Thursday and Friday. We've also seen companies using application forms to sign in at certain days with a maximum of X employees.
The feeling of safety
It's not only about actually being safe physically but also about feeling safe. Many employees don't feel comfortable returning to the workplace and so we need some strong leadership. Set an example, start with small groups. Go to work responsibly and help others to do the same. It will take time for people to realize that it's a new normal of safety. As Facility Managers, all we can do is make sure it's physically safe, we set the example and we maintain the rules. Normalize speaking up: many people feel uncomfortable to speak up when someone doesn't keep a social distance. Help normalize speaking up.
Things will be as they are for a while longer but we, as Facility Managers, can make a difference. Because together, we will make it!