Shortly after the first wave of COVID-19 subsided, employees began to return to work from last spring’s lockdown. They were greeted with an array of distancing, division, and geometry measures designed to keep the virus at bay. Quality office furniture played, and continues to play, a key role in that endeavour.
Unfortunately, the dreaded second wave rolled in, necessitating a return to tighter restrictions, but the measures that were put in place have proven effective and continue to safeguard office workers.
Today’s workplace is notably different from the one that existed before the pandemic. Then, the focus was on open spaces and close contact designed to encourage collaboration, creativity, and engagement. Now, the goal is to retain and enhance those strategies, while still maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols. Companies that take further steps to support their employees’ cognitive, emotional and physical well-being, whether they’re working from home or preparing their return to the office, have a leg up on their competitors.
Getting Employees Back to Work Has Been a Laborious Process
While the experience of working at home has surged, the office remains a business priority. There are always employees who prefer the physical office in order to ‘get out of the house’ and engage with colleagues. Let’s take a look at the current office experience for employees who prefer to work from the office, or who are required to.:
- Distancing, geometry, division: This has become the mantra for successfully keeping public spaces, including offices and schools, open. It focuses on keeping people physically apart. Distancing refers to maintaining a distance of at least two metres when not wearing a mask, geometry speaks to rearranging office furniture to facilitate distancing measures, and division is all about physical barriers, like dividers, to avoid the spread of contagions.
- Directional markers: We have all seen those floor markers in grocery stores and retail stores, turning aisles into one-way lanes. Businesses are adding floor markers to offices as well, in an effort to maintain wellness and reduce the risk of transmission.
- Cleaning products: Go into any place of business these days and you will see hand sanitizer everywhere. Tucked away in storage closets, there are lots of supplies to frequently clean furniture and wipe down surfaces. Employers are also purchasing sturdy furniture that can withstand frequent cleaning while some offices are augmenting furniture with surgically clean air solutions.
- COVID-19 protocols: Employers need to have clearly established protocols for what to do in case of a positive COVID-19 results. Clear guidelines will be important.
Ensure Employees Have Access to Wellness Benefits, Including Quality Modern Office Furniture
One of the benefits about working in an office environment is the immediate connection employees have to health and wellness programs as well as social activities, offered by human resources and team managers. Modern office furniture also plays a role, notably ergonomically designed chairs and desks that enhance comfort, improving productivity for those using them.
Studies, such as this one from Steelcase, show the benefits of a wellness strategy for employers and employees. With remote work surging due to COVID-19 and the expectation that the trend will continue post-pandemic, employers will want to provide wellness programs that benefit both home- and office-based workers.
Let’s look at some of those strategies:
- Modern office furniture: As in an office setting, remote workers are encouraged to equip their space with ergonomically designed furniture to enhance wellness and improve productivity. This type of furniture reacts to an individual’s body type, reducing stress while improving wellness and comfort. Some companies offer a stipend for employees to purchase home office furniture.
- Staying connected: A range of audio visual resources has been deployed in home offices to keep individuals and teams connected and communicating. They allow for scheduling, participation in meetings, tele- and video-conferencing, collaboration, and creativity. The idea is to duplicate the benefits of the office within a home setting.
- Social activities: Employees working from home are encouraged to establish routines that help ward off issues of isolation andperhaps even depression. This includes socialization protocols like setting up times when team members can chat with each other, as they might do around the coffee machine or lunch room. Employers will want employees to stay in touch with each other, and should facilitate this development.
- Exercise: Home-based employees will want routines whereby they can get out and about to, as they say, stretch their legs. This could include company-paid memberships at nearby fitness clubs, or if they are not open, free access to alterante fitness resources.
- Mental health support: To help ease the stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, employers can offer webinars or access to a mental health therapist. Some companies offer flexible work options and paid time off.
- Quiet spaces: In the office environment, this could be supported in a variety of ways, such as rejuvenating lounge settings or dedicated focus areas including workstations or enclaves with distancing and capacity limits.
We have learned a great deal from the beginning of the pandemic about how to reopen offices and how to keep them open. It’s quite likely the lessons we are learning today will serve us well tomorrow. Contact the experts at POI today for advice on how to keep the workplace, home or at the office, safe and functional.