Getting back to work: how can you retrofit your office for COVID safety?

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Melissa Smithson

Safety and security are on everyone’s mind as Nashville and surrounding areas return to work following the COVID-19 crisis. Even if you’re confident your office interior is clean, sanitized, and easy to keep that way, there are some retrofits that all offices should have. No matter what the future holds, having an office that inspires everyone who works there and visits that it will be safe and secure is a “must-have.” We’ve put together some suggestions in retrofitting, including some easy fixes, that you can put in to create and maintain a safe, tidy, and secure office and workspace. Many of these ideas are also are a great fit for our CarpentersPlus service.

Adjust and modify seating and waiting areas

Social distancing means that whenever possible, people should stay six feet away from people who aren’t members of their immediate household and family. This includes co-workers, and a lot of offices are staggering work schedules to make it easier for work to get done in a safe way while maintaining necessary distance. We’ve all done a lot of Zoom calls and while these can be a great alternative, they’re really not a replacement for offices where you need to see customers, clients, or patients.

According to the CDC, all offices are advised to modify their work areas and waiting areas to allow people to keep six feet of social distance. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Physically moving desks and work areas farther apart
  • Constructing barriers between desks, including plexiglass
  • Creating one-way traffic patterns
  • Marking areas for seating and waiting

You don’t need to waste space, either. You may feel you can never use your conference room again, but you can repurpose and re-envision this space so you can continue to use it safely. If you’ve got an employee lunchroom, there are a lot of choices to keep it as an eating area with safe, social distancing, or you can repurpose this room for a safe work area, and use outdoor areas for eating during seasonable weather.

Improve restrooms

If you have been feeling like your restrooms needed an upgrade, take advantage of the current need for safety and sanitary improvements and consider a restroom re-do for your office. Installing touchless flushing, faucets at sinks, soap dispensers and hand sanitizer dispensers are all easy fixes that can make the restroom safer and more sanitary.

Many businesses are also closing off every other stall to allow for social distancing requirements. You may also want to replace shallow sinks with deeper ones that eliminate splashing. Finally, installing touchless foot openers for restroom and stall doors, and putting in secure partitions can go a long way toward improving office restroom facility safety.

Add outdoor seating and open windows

Completely enclosed spaces and recirculating HVAC systems can end up circulating germs around interior spaces. Most of us are aware that airplanes can be havens for germs because their air is continuously recirculated. The same is true in many office ventilation systems. You may not have control over your office ventilation if you’re in an office tower with enclosed windows, but the virtues of fresh air are at the forefront of health experts and office designers these days.

Install outdoor seating areas, especially for employee lunches and breaks. Wherever you can allow for open windows and ventilation. The CDC points out what we all know with common sense: fresh air keeps disease-free air circulating and can displace potential pathogens. Your office could have a simple fix by installing screens and new windows: a quick, straightforward job for Carpenters Plus.

Go touch-free wherever possible

Eliminating the need for people to touch common surfaces like door pulls, drawer pulls, and faucets can reduce the potential for infection in your office. Automatic doors aren’t the only option. Some human-powered devices exist, and more are being designed every day to solve the problem of many hands touching the same surface before anyone could reasonably have the chance to disinfect it.

From motion sensors to foot-operated door openers, retrofitting your office with these devices can help to prevent the spread of disease and keep your workforce safe.

You don’t need to enclose every desk in your office in a protective plexiglass cage to keep employees and customers safe. There are solutions for every size of office and workforce. DWC Construction is ready to help as a general contractor — we’ve been working safely throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Many solutions are quick and simple fixes, and we’d like to especially recommend our CarpentersPlus services, which can step in quickly to get your office up and running in safety.