Preserve a Team Environment: Safe Office Space Layouts for a COVID-19 World

This year has been full of unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies in every industry have had to be creative in order to go back to work without sacrificing their employees’ health in the process. There are many benefits to working together in the office – but you’ll need to make sure that you are able to keep your team socially distanced while you do so. Here are some of the benefits of working together in person – and office layout ideas that will help you do so safely.

Advantages of Working in An Office

Although working from home has become very common, there are still many advantages to working in a traditional office space. Here’s why so many companies are still opting for office rentals

Creativity and Collaboration

Working in an office space with others fosters creativity. When your team has the ability to collaborate in person, it’s much easier to brainstorm and expand on each other’s ideas. This feeling of collaboration is difficult to replicate virtually. The process of organizing meetings is often easier in the office as well. You’ll be able to spend more time generating ideas and less time tackling technology or communication issues.

Problem Solving 

Another advantage of working in an office is the ability to solve problems much more quickly than you would while working remotely. If you encounter a challenge during the course of the workday, it’s much easier to talk to a supervisor in person and solve it right away. This is particularly advantageous for those who work with advanced technology that might need to be repaired or adjusted throughout the workday. 

Networking and Team Bonding

In order to run a truly successful team, you need to give them opportunities to build trust and develop relationships with one another. While there are ways to do this virtually, it tends to happen more organically in the office. This also gives employees the opportunity to network, which can help them advance their careers in the long run. 

Morale Boost

Working together in an office can also help to boost morale for your team. Many people struggle to stay motivated when they are working by themselves for an extended period of time. Having others around who are focused on a common goal helps your team stay motivated, productive, and excited about the work they are doing. 

Access to Technology

Technology is essential to the daily workflow of people in many different industries. Often the advanced technology available at the office isn’t practical for employees to take home with them. When you have your team in the office, they will have access to the technology that they need to do their jobs to the fullest capacity. 

Work/Life Balance

Working in an office every day is actually very important for work-life balance. Many people are surprised to find that it can be very difficult to separate work and personal life in a home office. When you’re working from home, it can be difficult to take breaks or detach at the end of the workday. When you’re working in the office, you can leave work at work and spend your evenings with those you care about. 

Safe Office Space Layouts to Try

Reorganizing your office space during the pandemic can significantly reduce your team’s risk of spreading COVID-19 when done effectively. Of course, you’ll also need to have other health and safety measures in place in your office rentals. These could include mask wearing, reduced capacity in your space, regular hand-washing, and sick days available for those who are experiencing symptoms. Here are some of the best office design ideas to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

One-Way Traffic

One of the biggest potential risk points in any office is when employees have to be within a six foot distance of each other. This is when there is considerable risk for transmission. This can happen when employees are walking through the space and crossing paths with each other in the hallway. 

A good way to minimize the risks here is to set up your office so that employees only walk in one direction. This makes it much easier for them to stay six feet apart from each other. Set up designated entrances and exits, with a path that makes a loop around the office. The pathway should be clearly designated with arrows and social distancing markers to remind your employees which way to go. 

Larger Workstations

Increasing the size of each employee’s desk can not only help them be more productive at work, but it can also ensure a safe six foot distance from nearby employees. Many companies are even opting to implement plexiglass dividers between each desk to catch the droplets that could cause transmission. Large individual workstations also allow teams to work near each other instead of being in separate rooms. These large workstations with plexiglass barriers or other dividers can serve as a new take on the cubicle. Cubicles are coming back into fashion during this time, because they give employees enough space and privacy to stay safe. 

One of the challenges of implementing larger workstations for each employee is that it can limit your space. If you don’t have enough room for your entire team to be in the space at once, consider having your team members alternate between working from home and working at the office. Make sure you are sanitizing workstations in between use to prevent transmission between employees who share them. 

Accessible Meeting Spaces

One of the biggest benefits of working in an office is being able to connect with other team members in person. Your team is going to need plenty of comfortable and safe meeting spaces to connect. These meeting rooms should be large enough that employees can sit at least six feet apart. They should also be well ventilated and have minimal shared surfaces. For example, you can opt to put two desks in your meeting rooms instead of one long table. If possible, you can also opt for doors that open automatically and lights that turn on with sensors. Keep the capacity for your meeting rooms low to avoid transmission, and ensure that they are sanitized on a regular basis throughout the day. 

Multiple Hand-Washing Stations

Employees should be washing their hands throughout the day, or at least using hand sanitizer. However, if you only have one kitchen or one bathroom, that space can get crowded very quickly. To ensure that employees have plenty of opportunities to wash their hands, place portable sinks at key points throughout the office. In the same vein, consider having multiple small fridges and microwaves throughout the office instead of one kitchen that sees a lot of traffic. This reduces the amount of people who come in contact with these pieces of furniture. In general, having lightweight, portable pieces of furniture makes it easier to rearrange the office when you need to. 

Reduce Density in Open Floor Plans

An open office floor plan can foster creativity and collaboration. While it may not seem like they could work in a post-COVID world, a little creativity can help you keep your open office without putting your team in danger. The key is to reduce the density of your open office by cutting back on tightly packed desks, so there’s room for employees to walk through while still staying at least six feet away from anyone sitting down. If you have multiple employees working at the same desk, make sure they are on either end so they can be six feet apart. Depending on the type of building you are working in, open office plans can also be much easier to ventilate with open windows, air filters, and fans. 

Safe Reception Area

If your office has a reception area, you can use it as a place to enforce COVID safety protocols during this time. When employees or visitors enter the space, you can have them visit reception for things like a temperature check, hand sanitizer, and an introduction to the building’s safety protocols. Prevent people from congregating by using signage to help keep visitors six feet apart. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented hurdles for companies in many different industries. Giving your employees the opportunity to work in an office space when they want to has so many benefits. Not only can it help your team members work more comfortably and be more creative, but it also improves your company’s productivity and performance as a whole. When you find an office space for rent in Clifton Park, NY, it’s important to set it up in a way where each team member can maintain at least six feet of distance from each other while in the office. 

Commercial Leasing Tips

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Commercial leases are often longer than residential ones, sometimes lasting as long as 10 years. It’s important to read and thoroughly understand any lease before signing. As a business owner, you should familiarize yourself with the clauses and provisions most commonly found in office leases. Here are a few things to consider when selecting commercial office space for rent.

Operating Expenses

When you sign a commercial lease, you’ll typically be paying operating expenses in addition to base rent for space. These operating expenses can vary widely depending on the building you’re in – and your landlord. Paying these operating expenses is a necessary cost of doing business.

It’s important that each operating expense you’re being charged for is clearly defined in the lease. Any room for ambiguity can lead to unnecessary misunderstandings. Some of the most common operating expenses include utilities, waste removal, building maintenance, landscaping, and property taxes.

Square Footage

Another important thing to look at when signing a lease is the square footage. You’ll want to make sure that the square footage correlates with your needs. Of course, it’s difficult for any company to use the full extent of the square footage they’re given, as you may be limited by office configuration or architectural features of the building.

Rent

It’s normal for commercial tenants to see rent increases over the course of their lease. This is because the cost of running a building goes up over time. However, it’s important that the method for calculating rent increases is clearly defined in your lease.

The Takeaway

When looking for an office space to rent, it’s important to make sure that it’s a truly great fit for your company. Office rentals can be a big investment, particularly for small and growing companies. Before signing a lease, you’ll want to feel completely confident that your new office space is going to provide real value for the money.

 

Featured Image Credit: Edar / Pixabay

Your COVID-19 Return to the Office Safety Guide

U.S. Air Force client system technicians from the 17 Communications Squadron review work request tickets for computers around base while maintaining a social distance in the COMM building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, April 22, 2020. The Airmen fixed and solved computer issues on-site and in the field, which instilinged mission readiness while adhering to the Center of Disease Control guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Abbey Rieves)

For the last several months, offices around the US have been shut down due to keep employees safe from the spread of COVID-19. Now, many cities and states are starting to lift their stay-at-home orders as case numbers go down. For many offices, this means it’s time to get back to work, but it’s important to do so safely. While COVID-19 cases are down in many areas, the disease has not been eradicated, and can still cause serious health problems. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to keep your employees and clients safe when working in your Clifton Park office

Review your City and State Guidelines carefully prior to Opening. 

As the economy is reopening, local and regional governments have put out strict, clear guidelines for going back to work. It’s crucial that you follow these guidelines at your office – a failure to comply could not only get your employees sick but could also result in your workplace getting shut down by the government. Before you open up, read through these guidelines carefully and clarify which safety measures need to be taken. Do workers need to wear masks? Should you operate at less than full capacity? It’s worth taking an extra few days to open to make sure you’re really clear on all of the requirements that need to be met. Now is also a great time to review your OSHA guidelines and other best practices for workplace safety. 

Give Employees the Flexibility they need to take care of themselves. 

When reopening your office, your first consideration should be your employees’ health. The first step should be establishing a robust sick leave policy so that employees don’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck. Make sure employees know that they can take time off or work from home if they feel even the slightest bit sick. Although sick leave can be expensive up front, it will likely save your company money in the long run. This is because it can prevent a large outbreak that would dramatically hinder your company’s productivity. 

You should also make sure you have a plan in place to protect workers who are older or immunocompromised.  Ask them about their comfort levels, and let those who can work remotely continue to do so. This not only helps those who are most at risk stay safe, but it also gives people the flexibility they need to take care of their kids or assist older family members who may have been affected by COVID-19. If it is not possible to work from home, start with a staggered opening. You can do this by strategically dividing your team into two or three groups, and having each group come in only on certain days. 

Make sure Employees are Educated on COVID-19. 

Before your team starts working again, it’s important to make sure they are fully informed about COVID-19 and how it spreads. When employees are fully aware of the signs and symptoms they need to watch for, they will be less likely to contract the disease or spread it to others. Discourage handshakes and hugs, and avoid all unnecessary travel, as this can help to reduce the spread as well. You should also encourage or even require your employees to wash their hands at various points throughout the day. These seemingly small changes can make a big difference when it comes to fighting the spread of the coronavirus. 

Encourage Employees to get tested regularly. 

To make sure your workplace continually stays healthy, it’s very important that employees are regularly tested for COVID. Since many cases are asymptomatic, it’s very difficult to know for sure if someone has the virus without getting a test. Make sure your employees know where the nearest testing center is and how to schedule a test. You should also give your employees time off to go get tested safely. Depending on the industry you are in, you may even choose to mandate that employees get tested on a regular basis. 

Make it easy for Employees to maintain their distance. 

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to ensure that employees can keep a distance of at least six feet from each other while at work. This may require some reconfiguring of your office space. Move desks away from each other and use tape to create clear walkways throughout the office. You may also want to put up shields around each employee’s individual workspace, and encourage employees to wear masks when they do have to be near each other. Since COVID-19 transmits through the tiny water droplets we exhale, these measures can help to prevent the spread. 

Implement a strict Cleaning Schedule. 

One of the most important parts of returning to the office safely is making sure that your surfaces stay clean. Shared surfaces like door handles and communal tables should be cleaned as frequently as possible. It’s also important to clean tools like phones and computers and avoid sharing them with other employees whenever possible. Keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes readily available throughout the office to facilitate this process. You should also talk to your office rentals landlord to see how they are approaching the sanitation process. 

Since COVID-19 presents very real health risks, it’s very important that offices put safety measures in place before reopening. It’s worth investing extra time and energy to educate your employees and keep your space clean – this will allow you to go back to work while also staying healthy.