Life is full of storms we must weather. Right now, we are all together in the middle of the big storm that is Covid-19. This is a tough time for all and devastating for many, but even the worst storms have a ray of hope.
As the leader of Vari, I’ve found that this time has actually brought my team much closer together. And as everyone continues to practice social distancing and as testing for the virus and antibodies becomes more available, we know we will make it through.
While some of us work in locations on the downward slope of Covid-19’s curve and others are nearing the apex, all executives need to be thinking about our employees’ needs when we can all return to the office again. In our new normal, we must continue to prioritize people — our teams, our clients, our communities and citizens of the world.
This has always been true, but it takes on new meaning as you consider the direct role the environment plays on health today. We’ll be looking at density, how many people actually occupy a space — previously, most companies planned for seven to 10 people per 1,000 square feet (or one person for every 120 to 160 square feet). That will change.
You may have to explore a policy that requires a number of employees to work remotely each month to keep the numbers down in the workspace, or perhaps think about how you utilize your space. After learning the ins and outs of having a remote team for the past several weeks, you’re now more prepared to support a group of remote workers.
When we do finally get back into the physical office, we’ll have to take holistic steps to prepare it for employees to work there and to reduce potential spread as much as possible. At Vari, we’ve primarily had open office spaces because that’s the nature of our company culture — open and transparent. That won’t change entirely, but we’ve started implementing a host of changes as our entire workforce readies to return to the office:
• Adding more 24-inch clear acrylic panels to provide employees with safe individual workstations. We also have to be mindful of high-traffic areas. If you have sofas or open workspaces, it may be proactive to put up a few (temporary) barriers that force employees to keep a safe distance from each other.
• Putting up “living walls,” or art installations made of plants.
• Increasing (temporary) barriers with flexible partitions.
• Stationing all employees at least six feet apart to enforce social distancing. We didn’t have many doors in our building (including my office) to begin with, but we’re removing any remaining ones that are unnecessary, which eliminates plenty of touch points we come in contact with each day.
• Putting up traffic flow signage to get people in the habit of staying six feet apart as they walk around the office.
• Installing an increased number of hand-sanitizing dispensers and new disinfecting wipe stations to encourage constant cleanliness and hygiene.
We are all on this journey together. Helping your teams embrace change and sharing ideas of what works and what doesn’t will allow all of us to improve the health and wellness of our people, our businesses, and our economy. As everyone starts getting back to the office, let’s prepare to pivot with them.