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Things To Consider When Returning To The Office Amid COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies around the world to navigate a quick strategic shift to remote working and posted new and significant challenges for millions of workers around the globe.

As we move forward, corporations are forced to grapple with how they can transition millions of employees back into the workplace, with restrictions in place to maintain the health of both employees and the company. This begets question of how can we begin planning the transition back into the office when the time comes?

While there may not be a be-all and end-all solution to this conundrum, there are useful guidelines that help organizations circumvent these unprecedented challenges.

Office Space of Celanese Singapore
Project: Celanese Singapore (Image Courtesy of OSCA)

Rethink office spaces for physical distance purposes

Despite the opening of regular workplaces, businesses need to remain proactive in reconjuring the physical workplace to observe social distancing regulations. A 1.5 metre distance between employees affects individual seating arrangements and shared spaces such as the office pantry. The largely vacant workplace is being reconfigured to accommodate physical distancing in preparation for employees heading back to work. Individual can be assigned to specific seats in accordance with the latest safe physical distancing guidelines, while still retaining the existing layout of desks and furniture in the office. More organizational return planning strategies can be introduced as company begin in more employees.

Isolation room in office
Project: FCM Travel Singapore (Image courtesy of OSCA)

Designate isolation rooms

As employee may begin to exhibit symptoms of the virus anywhere in the workplace including building lobbies, shared areas or office spaces and has to be immediately isolated to reduce their exposure to public. Designating and articulating space so that every manager and employees is aware of their location and purpose is crucial ensuring the wellbeing of staff. An isolation space should come in the form of an enclosed space with special ventilation or reduced air pressure to prevent others in the vicinity from being exposed to the virus.

Project: RGF Singapore (Image courtesy of OSCA)

Implement assigned seating

A flexible workplace with employees scattered across and the office and temporality sitting at a desk assigned to someone else lounge rooms and bathrooms, are used can provide transparency for involved parties. Knowing where specific employees are seated and their footprint throughout the day can promote a focused cleaning response if an employee starts to display symptoms. Employees assigned to the same vicinity can also be traced easily.

clean desk policy
Project: TEMENOS Singapore (Image courtesy of OSCA)

Maintain stringent cleaning regimens

With employees retuning to work, cleanliness is top of the priority list for organizations to safeguard workplace wellbeing. There is hence a need to plan, communicate and enforce strict cleaning procedures. Again, being able to identify which spaces are allocated to employees can help cleaning services to determine the order of their work. Some essential cleaning regimens would be to consistently wipe down all soft surfaces like couches and chairs with water and clean towel and thoroughly disinfect solid surfaces such as computers, shelves and door handles among others. Shared resources and amenities including coffee, couches and stationery should be removed to mitigate touchpoints and employee interactions. Consider leaving room doors open whenever possible so that others can enter without using the door handles. It is also useful to install acrylic shields in the reception area and in between individual workstation.

Malaysia Project (Image courtesy of OSCA)

Plan staggered returns to the workplace

Having an alternating group of employees work from the office every few days can limit the spreading of viruses. These groups may be created based on role criteria to meet the needs and goals of each organization and ensure employee distancing is enforced. This restrictive approach allows for more employees to work on a shift basis, where they can operate from clearly assigned desks and maintain physical distancing from those on the same shift. It is wise for organizations to retain some form of remove working until the pandemic blows over.

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