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Preparing your space
for occupants’ health
and safety

After several weeks of conducting work from home, offices across the Philadelphia region are beginning to re-open their doors.

As restrictions ease, companies are rapidly developing re-entry plans for their office spaces to allow for the safe and healthy return of their employees. Looking back to April, 80 percent of businesses had no re-entry plan in place. As of June, that number has decreased nearly 30 percentage points. While this is certainly good news, the process of re-opening is no simple task and requires a strategic, well-planned approach.

In order to safely re-open, companies must evaluate the health and safety guidelines per the CDC as well as those mandated by their local governments. Companies will find that with social distancing and new floorplans, office space will become more limited. Formerly, a company typically needed 196 square feet per employee, whereas today, under distancing guidelines, companies require about 313 square feet per employee. Reworking your office space to meet high standards of safety while implementing proper distancing can be challenging, but luckily there are clear steps to take to best prepare your space for a seamless transition to re-opening.

First, conduct a risk assessment.

Before preparing your office space for a grand re-opening, thoroughly inspect your building to identify high risk areas.

  • The Cleveland Clinic reports that coronavirus germs can live on hard surfaces, so proper and frequent cleaning is essential.
  • Consider areas like elevators, common hallways, and shared amenities and work with your landlord to mitigate risk in these areas.
  • Identify surfaces where you can decrease or eliminate the need to touch, such as soap dispensers, sanitizing stations, faucets, and door handles.

There are also factors to consider such as air quality and human resources procedures. Work with a professional to inspect your building’s air filtration and humidity and consider sanitizing systems like UV light treatment. It may be worth investing in new air quality equipment or working with a HVAC professional to solve for poor air quality issues. Additionally, you’ll want to work closely with your HR department to ensure proper signage is available to guide employees throughout the office, that personal protective equipment (PPE) is available if needed, and that new rules are effectively communicated to the office.

Next, re-evaluate your floorplan.

To abide by social distancing guidelines, offices across the country are required to develop new floorplans to keep employees safe.

  • CDC guidelines define social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” as keeping space between yourself and other people living outside of your home. To practice social distancing, people must stay six feet apart from others.
  • With correct spacing, JLL reports clients may lose up to 50 percent of the seats in their office.
  • Private phone rooms are now functioning as offices, larger huddle rooms are now spaces for calls, and medium-sized conference rooms are now huddle rooms. Even areas such as mail rooms, wellness rooms, and cafes can serve as new workstations.

Altering thousands of square feet to accommodate physical distancing is no small task and working with a trusted partner can help solve for these challenges.

An expert can also help you confidently communicate with your employees to show how office life will change and how distancing is being effectively implemented.

Diagrams of floorplans (an example from JLL is pictured above) should be made available to show employees the efforts you’re taking to implement safe distancing. This also can help with visualizing spaces and opportunities that may have been overlooked if you were to simply walk through and rearrange desks.

Finally, stagger re-entry.

Once your team is ready to re-open the office for employees, it’s important to establish rules and communicate any restrictions for re-entering the office.

It is not recommended that all employees enter the office at once. Instead, your team should stagger employee re-entry in phases. Consider establishing rotational schedules for small groups of employees. For example, divide your workforce into two groups and have only one group occupy space in your office for a certain allotment of time. In most cases, JLL recommends rotating groups throughout the office every two weeks. These blocks will allow time for proper sanitation practices to decrease the spread of germs and ultimately keep people safe.

Find resources for safe workplace re-entry.

For more information on re-entry and how to best prepare your office for employee return, visit jll.com or connect with Michelle Flowers, author of this piece and Vice President of JLL Philadelphia’s Project and Development Services.

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