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Social Distancing at the Workplace: Effective Social Distancing Measures to Keep Your Office COVID-19 Free

With the quarantine measures relaxed and thousands of people going back to the office, social distancing at work will likely be the first subject of the conversation. After months of working from home, we can be a little apprehensive with the idea of returning to the office. How exactly do we “social distance” in the workplace? 

There are social distancing measures that people must follow in the office, such as the six-feet distance that people must keep between themselves and others. We don’t know how long these social distancing requirements will last, but employers and employees will need to work together to introduce and implement these guidelines to keep workplaces safe and secure. 

Social distancing measures have set in motion a change to office life that is unanticipated: the office layout. How can people maintain the six-feet distance between themselves and others when they’re sitting right next to their coworkers, for instance? How will people eat in the pantry? The main problem that arises, then, is this: how can employers and employees work together to make sure that our offices are safe spaces that will keep its occupants healthy?

Why Social Distancing?

Before we dive into the changes serviced offices or offices in general must implement, we must discuss why it is important to follow social distancing measures in the first place. 

Covid-19 is a disease that spreads through people who are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period of time. When one person sneezes, coughs, or even talks without a mask on, droplets emitted from their mouth will be propelled through the air, eventually putting everyone nearby at risk of contact to the virus. Social distancing measures are especially important in an office, which are usually compact, enclosed spaces where airborne diseases can easily spread. 

Keeping a safe six-feet or two-meter distance from other people can help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Avoiding crowded spaces and refraining from close-contact social interactions such as shaking hands and hugging can also help. Rearranging office layouts and lessening the density of the workplace are just two ways to adapt to social distancing measures, thereby keeping office occupants healthy and safe from disease. 

How to Promote Social Distancing in the Office

Not all offices are the same; every office will face different sets of problems when adapting to social distancing measures. However, the following changes can work for every office, no matter its size, shape, or design. Follow these changes and practices to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in your workplace.  

1. Allow some employees to continue working remotely

While there are employees who are ready and raring to go back to a socially distanced office, there are still others who are cautious and wary about entering public spaces, especially during commutes. Let those who can work remotely do so; this will lessen the office population and thus reduce the chances of spreading Covid-19

a. Stagger start times

It would be better for the employees who are going back to the office if they came in at different times, and not all at the same time. Stagger the start and end of shifts so that there won’t be a morning and evening rush. This will ease the number of people congesting elevators and other common areas, as well as help those who use public transportation avoid heavy traffic. 

b. Rotate schedules

Alternate the weeks on which certain people can come in. For example, split employees into teams and have Team A come in during the first and third weeks of the month, while Team B will come in during the second and fourth weeks. While one team is at the office, the other will be at home, thus halving the office population and giving people more space to practice social distancing properly.  

2. Take a good look at your current office

The first step to making adjustments that adhere to social distancing measures is giving the existing office layout a good look. More likely than not, removing every other desk will not be the best option. When changing the layout of the office, one must consider foot traffic, high-touch surfaces, spaces that can become easily congested, dead ends, and common areas. Once those spaces have been identified, then the hard work of restructuring the layout of the office can begin.

a. Make a simple map of the office

Adjusting the office begins with careful planning, and careful planning starts with making a map of the existing office layout. Make sure to include pillars, boundary walls, doorways, power outlets, and other immovable features in the map. By making a map — even a simple one — employers can plan out a new, socially distanced layout that will maximize the space of the office and ensure the safety of their employees. 

b. Identify high-traffic areas 

One simple way to identify the areas where people usually walk is by checking the spots where the carpet is worn out. These areas are the high-traffic pathways of the office. Take note of the locations of these high-traffic areas and keep them in mind when making the office map, because these areas are where congestion is likely to happen.  

c. Consider routes to and from desks

Employees should be able to go through the office entrance to their desks without passing by a lot of people. When adjusting the layout of the office, make sure to create new paths that avoid busy, high-traffic areas and pass by the least number of people possible. Implement a one-way traffic system for best results.

3. Change the office layout

Social distancing protocols will have to change the way that offices look. While this includes removing some desks, that is not all that there is to it. Socially distant offices must have the following adjustments made. 

a. Put partitions for unavoidable face-to-face interactions

There will be places where employees will have to have face-to-face interactions, such as the reception desk. For these places, consider installing transparent partitions. While these partitions aren’t as effective as masks and social distancing, they do allow communication while creating a physical barrier that can protect employees.

b. Measure six-foot buffer zones around each workstation

Social distancing measures call for a six-foot or two-meter distance between people to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 through tiny droplets that fall through the air. To make sure that employees are socially distant while at their workspaces, employers must create a six-foot buffer zone around each employee’s desk. This means that some desks must be taken out, if the distance between each adjacent seat is less than six feet.

If the office has rows of desks that face each other, it might be enough to just remove every other chair at each row. This would create vacant seats on either side and in front of each employee, thus satisfying social distancing protocols. 

Once each desk has been arranged in a socially distanced way, then employers can determine how many employees can come in at any given time. This information is very useful when deciding who will work at home and who will come into the office. 

c. Remove some seating

There will be areas in the office where social distancing will not be possible, such as the lobby, break room, pantry, or reception. If there are seats and tables at these spaces, some of them will have to be removed to enforce social distancing measures. Aside from removing these seats, one can also face them to the wall or cover them in signage that will prevent people from using them. 

d. Set maximum occupancies for meeting rooms

Without proper social distancing measures in place, shared spaces like pantries and meeting rooms can quickly become overcrowded. Employers must determine how many people can be in these rooms while still maintaining the recommended six-feet distance between each of them. Make sure that the new number of people allowed in the break room or conference room is communicated to each employee.

Employers must also consider ways to reduce the use of these rooms. Encourage employees to eat at their desks, or have their meetings via video conferencing tools such as Zoom.

4. Put up signage and posters

Ensure that employees understand and remember the social distancing protocols that are in place by placing clear signage and posters in all areas. Make sure to set down big, brightly colored floor markers six feet apart so that employees can more easily follow the recommended safe distance from each other. Enforce the one-way traffic flow of the new office layout by putting arrows on the floor. Add posters about maximum occupancies and proper social distancing measures outside each meeting room, common area, and elevator. 

5. Expand office space

Once the hard work of adapting to social distancing protocols has begun, employers might discover that they do not have enough office space to safely host their employees. For those with budgets, expanding office space is always a good idea. Those without budgets might start looking for office leasing or space leasing. By moving some employees to a satellite office through serviced offices in Makati for example, employers adapt more quickly to this new normal. 

No matter the size or shape of the office, changing to the new socially distant layout that increases space and reduces density will no doubt help reduce the spread of Covid-19. While no one can truly say when the pandemic will end, it is always helpful to make the office a place that prioritizes the safety and health of its occupants.

If you’re looking for a safe office space for your team, please drop us a call or email us at hello@archoffices.com 

The New Normal of Workspaces: How ARCH Offices Reinvented their Spaces amid COVID-19

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels                                                                                                            

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has upended our lives in general—disrupting our routines, affecting our jobs and businesses. The global pandemic has altered how and where we work, making us rethink the future of office spaces. With our current situation, the way we design workspaces will never be the same again. COVID-19 has created the need for a faster than anticipated transformation for our workspaces; one that shall ensure a safe and efficient work environment for employees returning to work amid the pandemic. At the end of the day, we must adapt and roll in with the punches to thrive in the post COVID-19 world.

While the pandemic has posed a challenge for everyone to adapt to the new normal, the role of the office environment is more important than ever. 

Here are five key features of the workplace amid COVID-19:

 

1. Well-implemented Social Distancing Protocols 

COVID-19 safety measures require greater physical separation in workplaces via spatial means. To ensure proper distancing between co-workers, workstations should be spaced further apart. Sensible strategies include putting up barriers, moving desks apart, and decreasing chairs. Seating arrangements should also be spaced accordingly, making sure that employees are avoiding close contact. The same measures apply to conference rooms as meetings shall be limited in the number of participants, duration, and proximity. Most importantly, physical distancing should be observed at all times—even in elevators, cafeterias, and restrooms.

2. Enhanced Disinfection Efforts 

The key to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is to implement regular cleaning schedules and enhanced sanitation measures. If feasible, business owners can also invest in automated systems like motion-sensor doors and faucets. We want to avoid touching potentially unclean surfaces as much as possible, especially for offices in cities like Makati that rely on public transportation. By eliminating the need to touch surfaces, members and guests will feel more comfortable getting in our offices.

3. Installation of Sanitation Facilities 

To make people feel more secure, offices are highly encouraged to equip certain areas of the workplace with sanitation products such as hands-free soap dispensers, complimentary face masks and paper tissues, disinfecting mats, and automatic hand sanitizers.

4. Improved Workstation Designs 

There are alternative ways to reinvent serviced office layouts in order to make physical distancing feel more comfortable. Adding new elements to workstations like glass is one option. Conference rooms can also be redesigned to create a more flexible working environment. If your office has narrow hallways, you can turn some of them into one-way only corridors if possible. In preparation for future disruptions similar to COVID-19, we will need to future-proof our offices with adaptable furniture, antimicrobial appliances, and technology that limit touching.

5. Display of Signages and Reminders 

One of the best ways to properly maintain safety protocols is to set up visual aids. Display posters about proper handwashing procedures and measures on how to reduce the risk of virus in visible areas of the workplace to raise awareness. Floor stickers are also effective to ensure that everyone is keeping proper social distance. For one-way entry and exit points, clear signages and markings are vital. Apart from floor decals, you may also opt for directional arrows displayed eye-level at the walls or doors of the office.

 

As we adjust and reconfigure serviced offices to cater to the post COVID-19 environment and ensure a safe workplace for our members, we have started to implement temporary changes that will secure the safety of our members. Here’s how we made our office spaces safe and secure during the pandemic:

Watch Our Video: How we are making our offices safe

 

 

1. Health and sanitation protocols upon entry

Everyone will be subject to health and sanitation procedures before entering our premises. There are sanitizing footbath mats ready at the entrance to disinfect footwear and body temperature will be checked upon entry. Everyone will also be required to answer the DOH Health Checklist first before finally being granted access to our office spaces.

2. Regular disinfection of common touch points

We established new protocols and amplified cleaning schedules to make sure that high-touch surfaces and common areas are sanitized regularly. Our disinfection and sanitation efforts focus on workstations, countertops, and door handles, among others. If necessary, there will also be immediate COVID-19 disinfection provided for objects or corners in the workplace that may likely be touched or visited by a person who is suspected or confirmed to have the virus.

3. Contactless hand sanitizers in common areas

Automatic hand sanitizers are located at entry and exit points, as well as other common areas. We have utilized some of the desks and corners in our office spaces as hand sanitation stations to help promote proper hygiene and most importantly, reduce the risk of infection among co-workers.

4. Visual sanitation reminders and signages

We posted signs and reminders in prominent places around the workplace to increase awareness and help our community observe proper health protocols. Some of the signages we displayed include COVID-19 hotlines, proper handwashing procedures, guidelines for occupying meeting rooms and other common areas, safety measures for using appliances, and instructions on how to use RFIDs safely, among others.

5. Proper observation and implementation of social distancing protocols

We have implemented movement restrictions and physical distancing measures to ensure minimal physical contact within the workplace. We have also established safety protocols in accordance with health and safety guidelines. Two-meter distance between workstations and seats in common areas are properly observed to avoid close contact between co-workers. As the national and local governments continuously implement new health guidelines for the public, our community assures to follow the standards to create a safe space for our members and clients.

The changes in the work environment may feel strange at first, with co-workers separated by partitions and avoiding physical contact. “New normal” can mean differently in a lot of ways for all of us, but we know for sure that the pandemic has changed the workplace forever. The challenge ahead of us is to make our work environments even better than before. These enhancements are ever-evolving, keeping pace with changing health guidelines as well as member needs. But one thing remains a constant at ARCH Serviced Offices: We are focused on providing you with a safe and secure office space so you can continue to create your best work. As we continuously reinvent office spaces for the better, we aim to ensure a safe working environment and improved level of wellbeing for our members. 

If you’re interested in leasing or renting an office space at this time and want to learn more about our safety measures, please get in touch and email us at hello@archoffices.com.

 

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic

Image courtesy of Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caught everyone off guard—from small and medium-sized enterprises and startups to business owners and employees. As companies began to resume operations in the wake of the global health crisis, their entire workforce is reintegrated and employees are gradually returning to the office with safety measures in place. Most employees are going back after working from home, while some are coming from a much needed furlough.

In any case, these varying work experiences have the potential for stirring up tension and anxiety. Reentering the workplace after a global pandemic such as the coronavirus is a first for all of us. But there are ways on how you can manage your stress and boost your productivity, and such measures can also help you build mental resilience and adjust to the new normal with less anxiety.

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

List Down Priorities for the Day

As you go back to work, prioritization will be crucial than ever. Start off your day by listing down your to-dos according to their level of importance. But with nonstop emails from your superior and ad hoc tasks coming up every once in a while, deciding what deserves your full attention can become overwhelming. Nonetheless, the benefits of mastering prioritization can change your life. Knowing which tasks to focus on can reduce stress, improve time management and productivity, and even help you strike a healthy work-life balance as you create better boundaries during your workday. A study by researchers at Florida State University found that being committed to a specific goal makes it easier to focus your brain solely on the task at hand. Once you know how to prioritize both your time and tasks, you realize that much of the work that seemed urgent at first does not really need your attention—at least not right away.

Practice Soothing Activities During Commute

Making your way to the office can either be an opportunity to find momentary solitude or a source of stress. Before heading to work, prepare a comforting playlist. When you are taking public transportation, catch up on your favorite book or watch Netflix on your phone. If you are walking to work, take a moment to look around and appreciate the sights. A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that adding moments of leisure to your day can reduce both your brain’s and body’s response to stress, thus decreasing heart rate as well as improving your mood and overall well-being.

Share Key Takeaways

Every one of us has definitely learned a thing or two in the last five months. Whether it is finding out about our most productive time of the day or learning about new organization techniques, these key takeaways might just be as helpful to your colleagues as well. You can incorporate these lessons that you have uncovered during the lockdown to accommodate changing workplace needs and improve efficiency. Apart from that, these exchanges of information can lead to increased performance and improved decision-making.

Reintroduce Team Building Activities

You may have tried virtual team building activities with your remote team to boost morale and chill out after a long day of work. It could have been in the form of thrilling games, happy hour, or simply just a fun chitchat to cultivate a sense of community despite the distance and situation. These team building activities can help combat loneliness and isolation, especially in the case of remote workers. While a skeletal workforce is being implemented in most companies nowadays, you can suggest having contactless in-person activities to get everyone back in sync and regain a sense of belonging.

Be Open About Your Well-being Goals

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected our physical and mental well-being, thus forcing us to acknowledge that we must also prioritize our self to unlock our full potential. While most of us are returning to the workplace, some might still be going through some significant physical and emotional impacts of the unfortunate situation. Carving out time for a focus group discussion or one-on-one with your superior or colleague to lay down your well-being goals is essential in fostering accountability and encouragement.

Put Away Devices Before You Sleep

Poor sleeping habits lead to higher levels of anxiety. Checking your phone or laptop and browsing through social media for news updates can trigger fears especially in times of crisis, resulting in lack of sleep. Not only can it stimulate our brain and make it hard to wind down, the light from the screen can also suppress the natural production of melatonin, a hormone that the body makes to help us sleep. Moreover, a study by the European Sleep Research Society found that sleep impacts our ability to pick up on other people’s emotions. By putting away your devices hours before going to bed, you can sleep better and be your most compassionate self.

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Andrew Neel from Pexels

Totally eliminating stress from our lives is impossible, but we can learn to manage it. We may be dealing with stressors we have never even experienced before as we return to work. But when we discover the root cause of our stress, how we respond to it, and what helps us recharge, we can be in a position to prevent any imminent issues that may affect our productivity.