Revised Office Seating Design During COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis, complete with temporary business shutdowns, has helped many businesses to realize how much can be accomplished with a completely remote workforce. However, you may want to bring employees back into the office environment for a number of reasons, from oversight capabilities, to productivity, to the camaraderie formed through in-person interactions, to employee mental health, just for example
Of course, it can’t be business as usual – you’ll have to conduct operations in an entirely new way if you want to ensure the health and safety of workers. Perhaps the most important change to your current setup is adding the element of social distancing. How can you revise the seating arrangements in your office spaces to reflect safe social distancing guidelines?
Adding Safe Space
The first thing you’ll need to do is separate employees, and this means dividing their work stations. While shared work spaces, including team seating arrangements, have become a popular tool for collaboration over the last several years, a return to private seating is in order post COVID-19.
Social distancing guidelines mandate a minimum of 6 feet of distance between people, but considering testing showing how far airborne droplets can spread from an uncovered cough, you might want to increase this distance or implement additional measures, like barriers. In terms of planning your layout, you’ll either have to space out employees at current seating or create an entirely new layout with individual desks spaced farther apart.
This process can be made easier with the right layout software. If you’re not keen to spend money on software for this purpose, you can find free tools and even templates online. However, it might not be a bad investment, considering you can gain future use value when you scale staffing up or down.
As you push desks apart to create a safe layout, you’ll find that you naturally have to reduce capacity in your work spaces. This could mean allowing some employees to continue working remotely indefinitely. Or you could create a shift schedule, whereby half of workers come to the office in the morning and the other half arrive in the afternoon, or with A/B scheduling for groups coming in every other day. This will increase the need for thorough cleaning and sanitization, but chances are you’re planning to increase the frequency of these activities anyway.
In addition to socially distancing your office layout, it’s wise to consider supplemental health and safety features, including the addition of walled cubicles, panel dividers, or other barriers meant to impede the spread of germs in an open-air environment. You want to create the safest possible environment for workers to return to, and physical barriers can certainly help to stop airborne particles from spreading should workers cough or sneeze.