As the COVID-19 pandemic plateaus and (hopefully) begins its decline, office managers are considering what changes need to be made to create a safe workplace. This brings good news and bad news. The good news is the most impactful changes have nothing to do with the physical characteristics of an office, but instead are about changing daily behaviors. The bad news is changing human behavior is arguably one of the hardest things to do.
Office management will need to implement protocols that effectively limit infected and potentially infected people from entering the workplace. These habits should exist all the time, but are particularly critical during a pandemic and flu season. If we can accomplish this critical priority, along with a collection of other changes, we will become much more effective at dealing with the cases in the workplace that thwart our best efforts.
Enforcing staff to refrain from coming into the office at all is the only guarantee of non-transmission in the workplace. This is the reason Work From Home orders were put in place, and why working remotely will be a growing and permanent part of business strategies moving forward. There are many studies, papers, podcasts, and books about Distributed Work and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Although that topic is related and very important, it is not what we are tackling here.
There are some changes to the workplace that can be made immediately. Each of these changes comes with a cost and an unspecifiable effect on the chance of transmission, individually or collectively. No single thing will result in a completely safe space, but making these changes collectively will attack the nature of a microscopic bug that wants nothing more than to survive and thrive, mostly by perpetuating itself.
Let’s begin with clearly identifying the problem at hand before jumping into possible solutions.