As employees around the world gradually return to their offices, it’s up to building managers to create an environment in which workers can feel safe and comfortable. But such a feat can be easier said than done.
At Novel Coworking, we’ve been hard at work sanitizing our buildings, training our staff on new procedures, and closely monitoring local and international health regulations. We think we’ve learned a thing or two about designing safe and healthy environments to offer a few tips for building managers and office owners everywhere.
2020 Administrative controls
Below are just a few of the new regulations in place by many businesses around the world in response to the pandemic.
Temperature measurements are arguably the least effective measure used by businesses today. These involve using a contactless thermometer (also known as a thermometer gun or infrared thermometer) to read people’s temperatures. The reasoning is that if someone has a fever, they are more likely to have COVID and can thus be turned away for everyone’s safety.
But the problem is that temperature gun readings aren’t accurate. It’s already been proven that someone can carry the disease and not show any symptoms. Conversely, just because someone has a fever does not make them a carrier of the coronavirus. Use your best judgment and support your use of a temperature gun with more effective practices, like social distancing.
Washing hands with soap has shown to be effective in killing off all kinds of bacteria transmitted through touch. In the event there are no sinks nearby, hand sanitizers can also do the trick. Make sure to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and to stock them in the office— at the front desk, in meeting rooms, and in other high-traffic areas.
Door knobs, counters, tables, and even phones… we don’t always think about how many surfaces we touch without washing hands. It’s more important now than ever before to be on top of surface sanitation— using alcohol-based cleaners to wipe down commonly pressed or held objects to reduce the risk of contamination. Office owners— be extra diligent about wiping down computers and tables after every use.
In some cases, you may even want to consider shoe disinfection if you’ve been to high-risk areas (such as hospitals or nursing homes)
As recommended by numerous health institutes around the world, social distancing is still the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Putting at least six feet of space between you and others limits the distance that the virus can travel. Offices will need to be designed to prevent coworkers from sitting or standing too close.
9 Foundations of a healthy building
Each building is unique in its design and technological capability. Whether it’s a modern or older facility, there are a few categories of cleanliness and eco-friendliness that every building should strive to excel in.
- Ventilation – Proper ventilation is a two-way street. Not only do you need to help air out toxins and pollutants such as carbon dioxide and unpleasant odors, but you also need to filter the air coming in, particularly if you work by a busy street.
- Air Quality – Did you know that your office equipment and furniture can actually release toxic chemicals? Common office chairs and desks have been found to use flame retardants, formaldehyde, and other chemicals that can lead to cancer or other serious health problems. Make sure you purchase furniture that keeps your air clean and healthy.
- Thermal Health – Anyone who’s ever been in an office or classroom understands that the right room temperature is key to maintaining focus. Setting up smart thermostats that are easy to use and control can help save thousands in utility bills.
- Moisture – Pipes and HVAC systems should be regularly inspected to prevent leaks or moisture buildup in ceilings or floors.
- Dust & Pests – Dust and dander can build up in offices naturally, because of pests and even computers. Regularly sweeping and vacuuming floors can help keep offices clean.
- Safety & Security – Every building should be outfitted with basic security measures to keep people safe no matter the situation. Security cameras pointed at front and back doors can prevent burglary or undesirable behavior. Fire escapes should be easily accessible from any floor. Building managers must implement a clear safety plan in the event of an emergency.
- Water quality – Water fountains and running water taps should meet the U.S. National Drinking Standards to control microbes and maintain adequate water flow.
- Noise -Traffic and construction noise can be a major deterrent to office productivity. Sealed doors and windows, as well as thick walls, should keep noise out.
- Lighting and Views – Lighting can make the difference between pleasant work experience and a pounding migraine. Lights should be energy efficient, set at a comfortable level, and glare-free. Windows and skylights can also draw natural light in, which in turn can boost mood and morale.
When architects and building managers design with these 9 elements in mind, the result is a workspace that people can feel safe in. These can do wonders for each employee’s work experience, mentally and physically.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, refers to equipment that helps protect the user from illnesses or hazards in the workplace. According to the FDA, these can include “clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or other equipment.” In 2020, PPE is especially important for essential workers and the elderly (since they are most likely to contract the coronavirus).
The importance of PPE
PPE can protect workers in dangerous situations, whether it’s falling debris or an exposed wire. However, in 2020, PPE has come to mean any protective equipment that someone can wear to prevent the transmission or spread of the coronavirus. Most commonly PPE refers to face masks or shields.
Since the 2020 coronavirus is spread via droplets, face masks can simultaneously protect the wearer from droplets in the air, as well as protect other bystanders from potential transmission.
They also act as a symbol of caution in areas with high traffic and lack of social distancing.
Is the use of gloves recommended?
Unlike face masks, other PPE such as gloves should only be worn by patients and medical professionals. In some situations, the improper disposal of gloves can actually contribute to the spread of illness.
How long is PPE necessary
It is unclear how long the general public should wear PPE. Each state will have its own response and health recommendation. Companies should formulate their own policy in accordance with the national and local guidelines. For the foreseeable future, it’s a best practice to have PPE available with you whenever you visit somewhere where social distancing is not possible.
Over the coming months, Novel Coworking will continue to make important changes to our processes and environment to ensure the utmost safety of our visitors. Already, we have increased our sanitation staff and the frequency of our cleaning services, as well as instituted social distancing throughout shared spaces.
Have a question or a suggestion? Reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn to get in touch with our team.