A Checklist for Returning to Work(places) in a Post-Pandemic World

There are many questions surrounding how the world of work will rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some ideas on how we can prepare.

There is still a huge amount of uncertainty as to what the world is going to look like after shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted and people return to the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively wrecked normalcy for most companies around the world, and there will be short-term and long-term cultural, physical, and financial implications for organizations small and large.  

As we continue to move beyond the curve of this pandemic, here are some questions that every workplace and company leader should be asking before their employees step back into their office:

Health & Sanitation

  • Will you provide coronavirus testing for employees before they return to work?
  • Do you need to develop new policies to ensure ill employees stay at home without fear of any repercussions?
  • What resources will you provide to promote personal hygiene in the office? (for example: tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels)
  • How can you educate employees with up-to-date education and training on risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors? (for example: cough ettiquette, hand washing standards)
  • Will you require employees to wear face masks or gloves while in the office?
  • What kind of cleaning schedule needs to be implemented for the ongoing safety of employees?
  • Do office cleaning and disinfection efforts need to intensify?
  • Do you need to incorporate an air filtration system into your office?
  • Are you or your janitorial staff knowledgeable about what types of cleaning solutions can be used on the surfaces within your office? (for example: are your workstations or desks able to be wiped down with bleach?)
  • Are you aware of whether your workstation panels are fabric or hard-surface and the recommended cleaning requirements?
  • Do you have an action plan for if an employee gets COVID-19? What are the requirements for other employees who have been exposed to him or her? Will there be special guidelines for those with at-risk groups at home?

Space Plan, Physical Distance, & Furniture

  • Does the current layout of workstations or desk support physical distancing of 6 feet or more?
  • Do your workstations or desks provide physical barriers between employees that will provide additional peace of mind? (for example: privacy screens for height adjustable desks, additional glass privacy partitions on workstation spines, additional storage to create barriers)
  • Can benching workstations or closely positioned desks be reconfigured or rotated to create necessary social distance between employees? Can furniture be retrofitted or moved in a kit of parts to be adapted “OWS”?
  • What collaborative furniture needs to be removed or restricted? (for example: shared tables, ottomans)
  • Is social distancing possible within conference rooms, break rooms, or training rooms possible in their current configurations? Can they be adequately reconfigured or should they be restricted?
  • Can enclosed, unassigned workspaces, break rooms, or conference rooms be converted into private offices for certain employees?
  • For future projects, how can you purchase furniture that is agile and flexible to move within an open plan environment?
  • Are you in need of a floor plan audit and evaluation to discover problem areas? How will problem areas be handled and issues communicated to your team?

Culture & Work Practices

  • Do all employees need to return to the office? Can some continue to work remotely for the short term or long term?
  • How will you address the possible fears or hesitations of employees who are required or requested to return to the office?
  • What meetings should continue being held virtually in order to restrict the use of conference rooms, training rooms, and social spaces?
  • If some or all employees will continue to work from home, should you provide furniture, technology, or equipment to better support the home work environment? Will those costs be shared between you and the employee in some way? Who will be responsible for maintaining that furniture or equipment?
  • What new standards or expectations need to be in place for employee interaction inside the workplace? (for example: How do you move through office to avoid running into people? Touching door handles? Transferring physical items like paper? Water cooler or other shared food kitchen type spaces?)
  • Is there non-essential work travel that should be cancelled?
  • How will you address your company culture as employees transition back into the office? Was morale affected negatively or positively during this period of working from home?

While the above checklist for returning to the office after COVID-19 is by no means comprehensive, we hope that it can serve as a starting point for company leaders as they begin developing plans to reinhabit their workspace. In order to help develop answers to some of these questions, we have included some additional resources from partners and industry experts below.

As a disclaimer, we are not medical professionals; our expertise is in commercial furniture and space planning. Please refer to guidelines and information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for official medical recommendations for health and sanitation.

Here's How We Can Help You Return to Your Workplace

While we don’t have all the answers, we have begun helping many of our customers plan for their return to the workplace. Here’s a few areas where our team is ready to help today:

  • Discussion of the physical space planning in your office layout and how it lends to physical distancing
  • Change management and how to communicate a plan of action / space planning moving forward
  • Resources for cleanability and sanitization of furniture and workstation materials
  • Source physical distancing and sanitation products

If you are interested in starting a conversation about any of these things, please fill out the below form to let us know how we can help.