In the last week, the national conversation has pivoted to a return to a new normal, including a discussion about the short and long-term impacts on a return to the workplace.  Even though we’re still a little ways out from a full return, now is the time to begin preparing for this inevitability.  We’ve been thinking about a few ways to preserve the wellbeing of our team, and thought we would share some of those ideas with you.

While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of disease transmission via touch, there are a variety of tactics that can be deployed to reduce touchpoints and allay concerns:

  • Consider day porter services to visibly and dramatically increase the sanitation of high-touch surfaces like door handles, copiers, environmental controls and refreshment areas.
  • Consider adding antimicrobial Steelcase Soto Desk Pads, which mitigate the reproduction and spread of microbial pathogens.
  • Light switches and room controls are places where germs spread quickly.  Hands-free solutions featuring Crestron room controls and Alexa for Business are perfect touchless alternative.  Solutions like these improve hygiene and user experience.
  • Commercial textiles give spaces color and life, but if not chosen carefully, can become a place for microbial reproduction and spread.  As you move forward, select textiles that are not only beautiful, but also have antimicrobial treatments, like many from DesignTex.
  • Consider adding sanitation stations throughout the workplace, including sanitizing wipes.  Making these items visible and readily available will encourage workers to aid in keeping the workplace clean and healthy.

Density and social distancing in the workplace is also a concern for many.  As we begin the process of returning to the office, there are a number of things to consider:

  • In many organizations, the receptionist or concierge is the individual most exposed to members of the public.  For some, a live video concierge is a great alternative.  Through a live video feed, these workers can sit remotely and still engage, monitor and control the flow of incoming visitors.
  • For others that regularly interact with the public, there are a number of easily retrofittable transparent shields that can aid in the mitigation the spread of airborne pathogens.  Solutions from makers Steelcase and others are available now, and can be delivered and installed quickly.
  • Many organizations have increased density by deploying benching or small workstations in their offices.  While there are benefits to this approach (increased collaboration and communication being primary), you might consider tactics to increase distances and introduce barriers between workers to align with CDC Social Distancing Recommendations.
  • Finally, meeting spaces are commonly used by larger groups of people.  Consider reducing the capacity of these rooms while encouraging “mixed presence” participation via tools like Microsoft Teams Rooms and Cisco Webex Rooms.  As we have quickly become accustomed to internet-based meetings, “mixed presence” meeting will be the norm coming out of our WFH world.  Consider enhancing your physical meeting spaces to maximize the ease and effectiveness of this new meeting trend.

Finally, it’s been stressful for team members to adjust to WFH.  It will be equally stressful for workers to return and adjust to new norms.  Here are a few ideas to help people manage and maintain their emotional wellbeing:

  • Organizations like New York based The Energy Project offer many insightful articles on their blog.  Take time now to learn how people are coping with fatigue, fear and panic during these uncertain times.  Understanding and acknowledging your peoples’ concerns is the first step in creating a healthy transition back into the office.
  • Having plants in the workplace helps to purify the air, and adds a biophilic element.  A good rule of thumb is one plant per 100 square feet of space.
  • Communicate.  People’s anxiety ramps up during uncertain times.  Create a regular, repeatable, and predictable channel of communication with your team, preferably one that enables people to express concerns and ask questions.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate.  With the seriousness and somberness of recent events, it’s easy to overlook the positives.  We’ve worked hard and shown amazing creativity and resilience in getting things done in less than perfect conditions.  Acknowledge, reward and celebrate these accomplishments.

You’re not alone.  Creative is here to help.  Our mission hasn’t changed – we’re here to advance the way people live, learn and work.  Reach out today to put ideas like these into action for your organization