Phase I involves a slow return to the workspace, taking the time to implement must-have measures. In Phase I, we recommend a significantly reduced in-office workforce (20 to 35%) to test out your measures. To help you plan for your return, here are some guiding questions that we use with our clients:
- How has your headcount changed in the past 3 months (as of June 2020)? What do you expect your headcount to be at in the next 6 and 12 months?
- Are there any critical duties that have to be performed in the office and cannot be done elsewhere? How many employees are impacted?
- How does your team feel about returning to the workspace, including the office building and commute?
- How does your office fit into your workplace culture?
- Do you have frequent guests that spend an extended amount of time in your office? These could include visitors, clients, vendors, employee family etc.
- How does your team get to work?
- Does your team leave the office frequently during the day for breaks and meals?
- Do you have a lot of deliveries coming to the office?
Develop Adaptation Plans
The most effective means of managing your risk is through organizational controls. We recommend implementing the controls in our must-have measures first as these were designed to cover basic requirements to manage risk and needs. These measures include workplace access, capacity management, health and safety protocols and more. In particular, alternative work plans to meet physical distancing requirements is a critical measure that will significantly impact how you reconfigure your workspace.
We’ve worked through several plans with our clients and have found it helpful to focus on specific spaces to think through the use of each space and how safety can be improved. Each section below details our thinking around how you can reconfigure a space.
For most companies, there are 2 options to manage large groups of workstations. For most of our clients, we’ve typically recommended the first option as it is the fastest and easiest way to get back into the office.
Option 1 – No reconfiguration, maximum 50% capacity
This option requires implementing a 50% capacity limit in your workspace. By doing so, you can then reallocate and stagger seating for employees who are in the office on the same day in a checkerboard pattern.
Option 2 – Reconfigure workstations
This option allows for more people to be in the office, but will require workstations to be moved and replaces other areas in the office. Do note that this option might not work depending on the workstations you use.
Conference rooms can be adapted by reducing the amount of seating. The number of seats removed depends on the size of your room and table, but we suggest a minimum reduction of 50% capacity.
For smaller huddle rooms, it can be difficult to maintain proper physical distance. There are two options: converting the room for individual use, or reconfigure the space.
Convert for Individual Use
This can be done without making any changes to the huddle room. You can assign the room on a daily basis to different individuals, or convert the room into a private office. The room should be for the exclusive use of the individual assigned and others should not enter the room.
Reconfigure for Reduced Capacity
Huddle rooms are typically tight spaces and existing furniture will likely not be suitable. Depending on the room, physical distancing can be achieved with a 50% reduction in capacity. It is important to note that seating in these rooms should not be moved.
Reception modifications are important to help safeguard entry into the workspace. We recommend these additions:
- Clearly marked delivery drop zone for contactless delivery, as close to entry point as possible
- Hand sanitation station directly between entrance and screening zone
- Screening zone to report on any potential symptoms or exposure
These additions should come with proper markings to encourage physical distancing. Any excessive seating in the reception should also be removed to reduced crowding.
Cafeterias have long been a place of gathering and bonding and many of them have dense seating arrangements. With the new safety requirements, seating in cafeterias will now have to be drastically reduced. The amount of seating reduction is dependent on your furniture size and space. Hand sanitation stations should be placed in convenient locations around the cafeteria.
Lastly, circulation paths and appropriate distances should be marked using floor markers to encourage your team to maintain proper distance. This is especially important for accessing pantries, sinks, fridges and other shared facilities in the kitchen.
In a similar vein, collaboration areas will have to have their capacities reduced. This can be done by removing any excess seating and repositioning furniture. For larger seating such as couches that you might not want to move, block off seats with tape or signage.
Implementing Your Plans
Putting it Together
Putting the space modifications together, you should have the following:
- Health and safety plan: indicates locations of key health and safety zones and equipment such as hand sanitation stations, delivery drop zones etc.
- Capacity / density modification plan: indicates changes in seating capacity across your office. If you are not reconfiguring your workstations, this should be accompanied with a seating chart to ensure proper seating distribution.
- Circulation plan: indicates walkways and direction of travel through your different spaces in the office
With your plans in hand, it is now time to implement your changes. While implementing your changes, here are a few things to keep in mind:
For organizational controls, you will want to ensure that your team buys into the policies and measures prior to implementation. This helps provide comfort to your team, as well as improve adherence to the policies by surfacing any concerns.
As many companies look towards returning to their office, there is an increase demand on vendors and suppliers for equipment and services, leading to longer timeframes required to complete work. Account for this increase in demand and set realistic expectations with your team for the return to office.
While we are all excited to return, the COVID-19 situation is still a volatile one. Maintaining flexibility in your changes and implementation will help allow your team to pivot as required by any government or healthcare changes.
Congratulations! You’ve implemented your plans and some of your team is working out of the office. It is now time to move to the next phase – Phase II: Adjust. Details to come.