As organizations prepare for reopening in 2021, preventing the spread of COVID-19 remains a top priority. Although vaccines exist, masks, sanitizers, and clearly-marked boundaries for social distancing still prove vital to our collective welfare. However, integrating these changes may feel aggravating, so we’ve compiled the following suggestions to ease our common concerns.
Global design firm Gensler* put their creative expertise into a comprehensive safety guide for re-opening exterior and interior spaces, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers extensive reopening protocols, as well. Their guidance includes simple adaptations for business owners, employees and customers, municipal planners, administrators, teachers and students to ensure safe practices while re-establishing daily routines.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises the point of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ):
“For such businesses with indoor workplaces, IEQ is a concern for buildings that have been unoccupied and/or dormant for extended periods. Employers should also consider the comfort of employees as they return to work because they may be in a heightened state of concern. Putting in place thoughtful measures to ensure employees are well-positioned to transition back to work with minimal disruption is important.”U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Demonstrating use of masks and disinfectants assures individuals of concern for their well-being. Additionally, signage expressing PPE and cleaning requirements should be posted. Identify your signs with a logo and relevant color scheme to indicate ownership, match environment, and grab attention.
LIMIT ENTRANCES, EXITS, & CAPACITY
Foot traffic should be restricted to a single entrance and a separate exit, when possible. Gensler highlights factories, grocers, schools, and offices restricting entrances and exits with posted floor, door, and window signage. Similarly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defers to mandated capacity limits and ground decals indicating foot path directions.
LOBBY SCREENINGS, TESTING, & SECURITY CHECK-INS
Many healthcare facilities, offices, event spaces, and universities mandate health screenings before entering their premises. A quick temperature check, symptom questionnaire, and COVID-19 swab are now protocol for responsible organizations, accountable to one another for fighting the spread across populations. Both Gensler and The U.S. Chamber recommend posting health check requirements visible to all who enter.
WAITING AREAS, COMMON AREAS, ELEVATORS, AND WORKPLACE CIRCULATION
Post occupancy limits in common areas, discontinue use of shared coffee makers, foods, and water fountains, and stagger seating in work and common areas to limit face-to-face interaction. Gensler’s guide highlights waiting areas, elevator banks, and walking paths as locations where safe distancing, PPE, and sanitation requirements should be in place. Mapping your space allows controlled foot traffic, including use of fire stairs as routes for vertical travel, reducing the likelihood of people gathering in proximal risk. Limiting elevator capacity to a couple riders at a time is also key, with each rider relegated to the furthest corners of the elevator car.
Control restroom traffic with limited occupancy and staggered stall use to encourage distance as movement takes place, and mark six-foot increments for standing at entrances and sinks. Multiple daily cleanings, signage, and floor decals ensure everyone that their health is your top concern.
Outdoor gatherings present distancing challenges, also. Some officials recommend ten feet between individuals involved in physical fitness activities, due to increased exertion spreading particles while breathing. Staggered outdoor seating avoids direct face-to-face conversation, and contact surfaces should be disinfected.
STOPPING THE SPREAD
Remaining informed of factual developments allows the best course of action for keeping one another safe in every environment. Technological accommodations such as automatic doors, telecommuting, teleconferencing, and other touchless experiences, limits spread. Advancements in UV-C lighting installed inside HVAC ducts also is proposed for eliminating COVID-19 throughout circulating air. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gensler, and additional credible sources implore us to seek information from public health and safety experts at the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.
What adaptive measures is your organization taking? Do you need branded safety signage? We’re available to help via phone, email, or through your comments below.
*(Gensler is not an expert in public health matters or infectious diseases. This material is intended to provide ideas or options for further consideration and ideation. You should make decisions related to your operations, business continuity or preparation plans in collaboration with experts in public health and safety.)