Facilities lessons from times of crisis: September 11 taught us about evacuation protocols and design/ safety criteria to aid exiting without confusion. Hurricane Katrina taught us the need for business contingency plans and the risk of single location strategies. Superstorm Sandy taught us the need to be able to work remotely in times of crisis.
Many companies that were reluctant to embrace remote work before are now realizing it is a viable option that may continue to have a role in their operational and real estate strategy going forward. Others are longing to return to a shared work environment for the energy, comradery and synergies that only a group workplace affords.
One thing that is certain to be the case following COVID-19: Everyone, and every company, will re-evaluate the safety and health of their work environments. Some post-COVID ideas worth considering in terms of office design and technology:
• Install voice activation or hands-free controls that reduce the need to contact commonly touched items.
• Switch to VOIP communication technology instead of phone handsets and eliminate shared keyboard trays.
• Remove trash cans from individual desks and replace them with a communal bin that consolidates sanitation.
• Increase humidity levels to 40 to 60 percent to reduce infection. Use portable humidifiers if the HVAC system does not allow for this.
• Work with building management to improve air circulation, filtration and ventilation and confirm cleaning protocols.
• Reorient/ stagger work points, so individuals do not directly face each other.
• Create clean desk policies that allow surfaces to be properly cleaned daily and update facility maintenance contracts to ensure these steps are taken.
• Enhance cleaning protocols and frequency to aid sanitization and cleanliness.
• Prioritize office furnishings made of antimicrobial materials that are easy to maintain, resist mold and bacteria growth and promote good indoor-air quality.
• Provide better access to handwashing with additional sinks in the office or more hand sanitizer devices.
• Assign lockers, file drawers or storage cabinets to individuals to separate personal items.
• Establish screening protocols and fever checks for everyone entering the workplace when contagious illness is flaring up.