Don’t Abandon the Office Just Yet. Business Leader Boldly Re-imagines the Workplace

by Joe Jackman

The pandemic is presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not to abandon the workplace, but to reimagine it into a bolder more human-centric office space that caters to the changing needs of employees and clients. It also creates a unique opportunity for improved communication and trust between employees and leadership teams. Below are some of the key elements of this exciting and practical workplace reinvention, which I am in the process of implementing at the stunning newly-built timber frame commercial building, 80 Atlantic.

COVID Aware Office Design

Design the office to allow for 6 feet of distance between occupants and establish control over entry points, including for any deliveries. Specify seating assignments to give ample space between seats and to avoid desk sharing. All spaces should operate at reduced capacity, including meeting rooms, and small rooms should be made single occupant only. Remove chairs from meeting rooms so people don’t linger, and so there’s one less thing to keep clean. Designate and design direction of foot traffic with one established direction through the primary circulation paths. Consider installing low-touch or no-touch switches, doors, drawers and other fittings.

Give Employees a Say

Offer an anonymous poll to employees prior to opening up the workspace to determine what their needs and desires are. Ask them how many days they want to come into the office and what schedules and arrangements might work best for them. Be mindful of the fact that childcare options have drastically changed for many people and don’t punish them for it. Clearly set employee expectations, with an emphasis on making them feel secure. Allow employees to work from home or change their schedules when needed. Conduct polls frequently after the office reopens to make sure things are working smoothly.

Prepare the Workforce

First and foremost, the return to the office must be voluntary. Everyone’s situation is different, and some employees might not be comfortable or able to come back to the office at all. Business leaders can help mitigate the anxiety of returning to the workplace through change management planning and solid two-way communications with workers. Ensure that your leadership is in complete alignment upon re-entry. Offer clear communications to employees around the back to work plan, including safety protocols, and allow employees to ask questions and make suggestions. Give those working on in flight projects the first option to return to the office. Make it clear that employees who are feeling unwell should stay home or leave the building immediately if they’re already in the office.

Create a Common-Sense Safety Plan

Provide temperature checks on arrival using a handheld remote scanner. Reinforce handwashing, social distancing, and use of PPE by providing wipes and sanitizers at reception and throughout the office. Have employees sign a form acknowledging that they’re symptom free and that they agree to abide by the 6-foot distancing rules. Vendors should not be permitted past the lobby.

Reduce Touchpoints & Increase Cleaning

Look for ways to reduce the use of touchscreens and other high touch items (e.g., iPad bookings, remote controls, vending machines). Regularly sanitize all workspace areas, including conference room, breakroom, cafeteria, restroom, and other common or high-traffic areas. Supply disinfectants near or on each desk or work area and enable DIY cleaning by providing employees with ample hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Ensure that employees have access to secure designated storage areas for their personal items.

Joe Jackman is CEO of Jackman Reinvents.

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