Many companies are now rigorously planning how to bring their people back into the workplace. Every one of them has realized that before they can ask people to return to the office, they have to ensure their people will be safe and productive in their workplace environment. Here are some of the steps we have seen leading companies take in developing their COVID-19 management plans for their return to the workplace.
In the early days of the pandemic response, one of our industry leading customers identified that the Rule of Thirds could help with workplace planning. They recognized that 1/3 of their workforce would need to remain in the office permanently, that 1/3 would need to come in occasionally, and that 1/3 could permanently work remotely.
With a large workforce, this allowed them to systematically work through their legal obligations, management protocols, workplace design, access management, worker entry processes, physical distancing, contact tracing and cleaning requirements at a team level.
The approach has helped them adapt systems and processes to maintain security, meet their legal obligations and most importantly, keep people safe.
COVID-19 Safety and Legal Obligations
HR, Legal and Facilities executives intuitively understand their obligation to protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable. However, what this entails is very different from workplace to workplace.
We have seen a number of companies establish cross functional teams to develop their protocols, control measures, procedures and communications. The approach ensures they balance the legal, public health and operational requirements of the solutions they implement.
Workspaces, Density and Design
Traditional workspaces have been designed to specifications that no longer bear scrutiny. Yet at the same time, it is too early to commission wholesale workspace re-fits.
Many companies are making simple changes first. Signage is amongst the most prevalent controls, followed by empty workstation buffers and meeting room and common area limits.
Additionally, they are leveraging technology that allows them to understand how their workspaces are being utilized. By leveraging data, they will be able to better design their facilities and justify the decisions.
Physical or social distancing rules will likely apply in the workplace (and socially) for some time to come. Social distancing technology is recommended as the #1 measure that needs to be put in place before organizations allow a return to work.
95% of legal leaders surveyed by Gartner have said that social or physical distancing measures must be put in place before allowing any return to work*.
Social distancing monitoring systems come in many different form factors. You’ve probably already seen beacons, wristbands, cards and badgeholders in the market that can be programmed to buzz or flash when they detect each other. Organizations need to strongly consider what is right for their organization, the operating conditions, their people and the reporting they need when choosing the right solution.
Contactless Workplace Solutions
There should be no surprise that many organizations are integrating new touchless features in bathrooms, window shades, and door hardware across their facilities. They often utilize materials which are easy to wipe down and hold up to frequent deep cleanings, especially in high-traffic areas.
Our clients are also adding contactless systems for visitor management and contractor management. Lobbies and loading docks are recognized as high-traffic and high-risk in any facility. By adding pre-entry health check questionnaires, thermal cameras, kiosks and scanners companies can ensure that visitors and contractors can enter safely and sign-off on their own legal obligations prior to entering a workplace.
Rapid COVID-19 Response
We have seen a number of organizations recognize that shutting large operations can cost millions of dollars every time. They are now looking for technology to manage their operational risks and systems that provide detailed reporting to guide their response.
Some Physical Distancing Monitoring solutions come with contact tracing applications that leverage the data collected by the devices to provide detailed reporting, in the event an infected person enters the workplace.
Sophisticated solutions leverage the building security system and turn the existing security access card into a social distancing and contact tracing solution. This type of solution enhances security and virus risk management at the same time.
These types of advanced reporting and contact tracing systems are helping maintain operational continuity and protect their workers.
We know that productive workplaces matter more than ever. This pandemic however, is likely to fundamentally alter when we go to the office, who is there and how we interact. There are many more lessons to share and we’ll cover more in future posts.
*Gartner: Emerging Issues Related to COVID-19