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Three Best Practices For Workplace Reopening

The new "normal" is here, as people return to their offices after months at home. This return comes with a monumental challenge for employers and business owners as they are tasked with making adjustments to their offices and real estate to make it safe for employees to work. While most businesses can't do a full remodel to enforce social distancing, there are some basic steps everyone can take.

Reconstruct recommends three important things to get your workspaces ready for reopening:

  1. Use the resources you already have to help your social distancing plan.

Fire escape plans are a great starting point for your social distancing plan. The easiest part is that hallways are already marked with one-way arrows and you can manage your workspace by writing in names and labels. If you need to do more: grab a 360 camera from Amazon; document all of your changes to the office; and update your floorplan in minutes. See how in the video below.



Example of a fire escape as a great starting point for your social distancing plan.

2. Implement frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people.

Coronaviruses on surfaces can take days to die. It is critical to frequently and thoroughly disinfect surfaces and objects touched by multiple people to reduce the risk of virus spread. Examples of these surfaces and objects include doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, faucets and sinks, keyboards, and touch screens¹. Equally important is having cleaning supplies available for employees to wipe down high touch surfaces frequently when they are done using them, like the office coffee machine and refrigerator handles. In addition, having signs reminding about handwashing, as well as strategically placed hand sanitizer dispensers are a necessity.

3. Improve and upgrade your building air ventilation systems.

An NIH study of 3,700 employees across 40 buildings found that 57% of all sick leave was due to poor ventilation. OSHA's Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19² includes increasing ventilation rates in the work environment as one of the important engineering controls needed in the workplace. Additional studies suggest that proper ventilation and maintenance can help reduce airborne spread. Because of this, Harvard's Healthy Buildings Lab recommends focusing on improving ventilation and thermal comfort as a critical foundation of a healthy building and a long term preventative measure. This can be as simple as having a plan to upgrade filters and replace them more frequently, all the way to adding ventilation or upgrading the unit.

We are all in this together, and we will overcome it together. As you renovate and retrofit your "new normal" workspaces for reopening, here are some additional resources that you can check out:

  1. Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Covid-19, May 2020 Update
  2. OSHA's Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  3. Reconstruct's Visual Command Center, which allows owners, architects, engineering firms and contractors to remotely coordinate design and retrofit of their workspaces. Reconstruct creates as-built floor plans and models from 360 videos and provides the basis of design. Clients and designers can virtually review and sign off on their design by contrasting what is there vs. what should be there.