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It was not that long ago when small businesses nationwide jumped on the open office trend. In addition to cutting costs, the open office design, characterized by shared desks, encouraged collaboration between workers and teams. But unfortunately, numerous research studies show that open office spaces decrease in-person communication and, in many cases, reduce worker productivity because of noise and other distractions. Today, employees in open office environments have to deal with more than just ringing telephones, loud conversations, noisy keyboard clicks, and a lack of privacy. They also have to deal with the fear of the unknown related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shared desks and cubicles without high barriers keep workers close to each other, increasing their risk of transmitting viruses such as the common cold, bronchitis, and the flu. Add to that list the coronavirus, which can be sent from people who are either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. If your small business is slowly re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, you must adhere to the CDC’s state and federal guidelines. Physical distancing is an obvious safety measure, so it might be time to change your office design if your employees work too close. This Balboa Capital blog post has some ideas for you to consider.
Good office design has a blueprint for safety.
If you are slowly inviting your employees back to the office, there are ways to focus on their safety without investing in an expensive remodeling project. One way is to reconfigure your floor layout to reduce density. Start by looking at your office design and square footage to see how many employees you can accommodate with the required physical distancing. For example, if you have a large desk with six computer stations, you can switch it to have just two and position them at opposite ends of the desk. Likewise, if your office has cubicles, look at ways to reorganize them so that your employees are not sitting near one another.
For example, a 10-person cubicle with L-shaped desks can be dismantled to create five 2-person cubicles that can be spaced six feet apart. Consider adding plexiglass partitions to each cubicle. These can help protect your employees from germs and airborne illnesses that can travel in the particles of a cough, sneeze, or laugh. When you change your office layout to add space in-between desks and cubicles, you will most likely reduce your capacity by 30% or more and still have the same amount of square footage. So, determine which employees can work remotely and who needs to return to the office. Doing this will help when planning your office-seating chart.
Rethink in-office meetings.
The pandemic is changing how meetings are conducted in the field and the office. If your small business meets with clients, customers, business partners, and prospective employees in private offices, it is time to consider alternatives or a revised office design. For example, face-to-face meetings can be problematic for you and your visitors, even in a large conference room. Some of today’s popular options include web-based conferences and video chats. In addition, outdoor meetings in public areas, perhaps at a table near your office, can reduce anxiety and maximize safety for both parties.
Just maintain proper social distancing, wear face protection, and avoid shaking hands. As for business meetings with your employees, use your discretion. That said, it is a good idea to have them via webinar. Many businesses no longer hold in-person meetings.
Repurpose office space.
Have you ever walked around your office and noticed empty offices, workstations, or perhaps a vacant meeting room, closet, or supply room? If so, do not let these unused spaces collect dust. After all, you are paying for them in rent. These areas can quickly and easily be repurposed as office spaces for your employees. Yes, supply rooms and other underutilized areas might not have the same attractive look as a cubicle. Still, they might be the preferred option for employees who want private, personal spaces, especially during a pandemic. Private workspaces are also considered nice office perks by employees who like to be away from the hustle and bustle.
Repurposing your space and changing your office design is relatively simple. It involves moving desks, chairs, computers, and desk lamps. If you are converting a space that needs an electrical outlet and wiring installed, you can hire an electrician. In summary, vacant space is a valuable asset that can become integral to your office redesign. It is a great way to expand your footprint and allow more employees to return to the office.
Nobody could have predicted COVID-19 or its effects on Main Street USA. Millions of Americans are ready to return to work, but safety will always be on their minds. They want to return to a workplace that puts their health and safety first. One way to do this is a new office design with rearranged workspaces that complies with social distancing rules.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.