The spread of COVID-19, Coronavirus is affecting offices around the world. According to the World Health Organization, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The virus is zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. The focus today is on how to contain the spread. Health officials are trying to control it through strict health measures that offices need to incorporate into their businesses.
One does not need to look too far to find a recent example of a health pandemic and what offices did to help prevent the spread. SARS is why we already have antibacterial sanitizer in most offices. Last week, Bill Gates warned that Coronavirus might be ‘once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about’. It also might not be. Another pathogen may come in the future. Therefore, we must think about how to retrofit our current and future office space better to protect employees from current and future pathogens. This way, the next time a pathogen like SARS or Coronavirus spreads we can be better prepared:
- Limit Surfaces That Employees Need To Touch With Their Hands:
- Doors don’t need handles and can swing open both ways by just pushing them with your foot or shoulder.
- Install Motion lights in all rooms, including bathrooms. (Doing this is also environmentally friendly).
- Add motion sensors to all bathroom features. Most new offices already have this, but double down. One should not have to touch a faucet to wash their hands.
- Embrace Technology
- Design office space that embraces collaboration technology and remote work. If you create pilot programs that helps employees become efficient at working from home from time-to-time, they will be better equipped to work from home on days they are feeling sick. Or when they are afraid of catching a pathogen. Your workspace should maximize video conferencing. This includes thinking through office space design to add phone booths or small conference rooms over individual offices so people can connect better with those working from home. If employees are going to work form home more often then offices can double down on shared areas with rotating desks for those who work from home some days of the week who don’t need designated desks at your office.
- Invest in personal laptops, tablets, and phones for your employees, so they aren’t sharing keyboards and computers. Employees can commute with their devices. Giving every employee their own devices that they are responsible for will limit the number of wires and desk objects so cleaning crews can keep your office space clean and healthy.
- Invest in blue tooth technology in your conference rooms. Employees should be able to use their cellphones to connect to a conference call that play in your conference room without having to touch the speaker or a shared phone. We all already do this to listen to music; we can do the same for conference calls!
- Choose Furnishing That Is Easy To Clean – If you are a new parent of either a human child or a feline one, you know the importance of only investing in-home furniture that is easy to clean. This should be the same for your office space. In many offices, building or third party cleaning crews come in at the end of the day to clean. Therefore, anything you can do to make their job more efficient will benefit your employee’s health.
- Clean Office Space – Many offices may want to skimp out of daily cleaning. You shouldn’t. Environmentally friendly cleaning crews must come in to disinfect anything that might be contaminated. A designated person in your office should go over what products cleaning crews are using (you want them not to be hazardous to the environment or your employees, while also killing any germs that can cause your employees to get sick). Additionally, you will want to make sure they are correctly cleaning things like the refrigerator and copy machines.
- Keep Installing Sanitizer in every conference room, shared spaces, and reception area. We started doing this nearly 20-years ago. This will NEVER go out of style. Even if no one uses it, you are singling to all visitors that you expect your office to be clean and healthy so employees and their visitors can thrive.
- Update Your Refrigerator – In many offices, it is already a cesspool of who knows what. However, there has been technological advancement in refrigerators. For instance, if you are redesigning an office space, you can now install refrigerator drawers. Each department can have their draw. However, that isn’t an option for everyone. Another option could be to have more than one fridge. One refrigerator for employees food the other used for your guests or free drinks for your employees. Handles need to be disinfected regularly. You can install some hand sanitizer next to the refrigerator door.
- You Can Never Have Enough Disinfect Wipes. Gift each of your employees a tube for them to keep at their desk. If that is too much. keep a bunch of them in a common area that they have easy access to.
- Trick Out Your First Aid Kit – Did you know that zinc lozenges are proven to be effective in blocking Coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx? Additionally, Latex gloves and surgical masks can come in handy if your employees are worried. Stock up on all over the counter first aid, so your employees feel you have their best interest at heart.
It is vital to not just think about Coronavirus but also about future pathogens and the health of your prospective employees. We must rethink how we work and how we design our work space to ensure we all stay healthy, efficient, and useful
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