Reopening the workplace means changes for many workplaces. How can we make simple, smart adjustments to help employees navigate these updates?
As we work through the phases of re-opening, employers are now tasked with re-imaging the workplace post COVID-19 to communicate new protocols and elevate the sense of well-being. A Citrix poll of 2,000 workers currently working from home found that 64% do not feel comfortable returning to the office for another month. As employers create new policies and protocols, communicating these through simple yet thorough messaging can aid in elevating employees perceived comfort in the workplace.
Place signage throughout the office.
One way to communicate with employees is by placing signage throughout the office. Signage should always be simple in order to clearly communicate, three short lines of text and an image are best practice. This will eliminate social interaction of people trying to read the signage itself. Signage should encourage social distancing, not negate it with congregating. Placing constant, repeated reminders throughout the office will help to reinforce changes like new traffic patterns, availability of seating, and reminders to wear a mask.
Use finishes as visual cues of social distancing.
Changes in materiality or color can help remind people to keep their distance. This doesn’t necessarily have to be changes to the environment, just changes to how existing finishes can give cues. For example, in our office we have carpet under our desks and concrete in walkways; a new office policy could be for visitors not to enter carpeted areas when conversations are occurring in an effort to keep 6’ of distance. Manufacturers are also currently developing products that encourage wayfinding, one example is carpet tiles with arrows in them.
A rotating schedule can help limit costly changes to office furniture.
Lastly, it seems that in an effort to lower density many companies will be implementing rotating schedules for employees. A study done by Buro Happold found that occupancy rates above 40% would likely not require alterations to companies’ furniture. In an effort to limit changes to the office furniture itself, the use of a staggered schedule work force in the office may be necessary. Ideally staff will utilize separate work stations and shared spaces may be come segregated by shift. In order to reinforce appropriate areas per shift, color coding or numbering may be required. Displaying large-scale graphics and/or accent colors throughout the office could give bold visual cues that are both functional and add interest to the office, infusing both the communication of safety and giving the office more life.
While some aspects of designing the new normal may be costly, others don’t have to be. Taking a fresh look at the space you already have and layering messaging in many different forms when done well can actually freshen up the space while at the same time providing and elevated sense of well-being for employees.
Want more information? Email Allison for some insights, or check out her other recent blog relating to the post COVID-19 Workplace.