About Time: You Safeguarded Your OfficeBy Angelica Malin
More than 140 countries have reported cases of coronavirus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020 and the UN trade agency estimate the virus will cost the global economy at least £1 trillion and usher in a global recession. Of course, you shouldn’t be in the office right now, but some key works have to be.
For now, government health officials around the world are enforcing businesses closures and encouraging employees to work from home until the spread of the virus is contained. When employees are permitted to return to the office, however, the workplace will become the new battlefront to prevent further outbreaks.
As a result, office designers, building owners and manufacturers are challenged to provide solutions that keep wellness considerations in mind. If offices are proactively designed to stem the spread of disease, we can prevent another outbreak and minimise the risk of future pandemics.
Office workers spend one-third of their lives at work. It is the responsibility of businesses to provide a safe working environment by implementing hygiene rules around the office and installing an office design that prevents the spread of disease
The first line of defence has to start in the lobby or waiting room to prevent infectious germs entering the building on clothing and shoes. Some buildings already have walk-off mats and grates that can remove contaminants on people’s shoes before they enter the building.
WHO also recommend screening employees and stopping human contact such as shaking hands. Employees returning to offices in China following a significant drop-off of Covid-19 cases are being asked to complete a questionnaire stating their travel history and general wellbeing.
Install Motion Sensors
Health officials advise that where possible, employers should limit the number of surfaces that employees typically touch with their hands. Installing motion sensors and automatic doors will eliminate the need for people to touch light switches, door handles and taps.
Improve Air Quality
Studies suggest that insufficient ventilation increases the risk of transmitting airborne diseases. Experts believe that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease Covid-19, can survive outside the human body for around two hours when airborne. If an employee carrying the disease in an office environment sneezes or coughs, that’s long enough to bring down the entire workforce.
Moreover, 25% of the air used in the ventilation systems of most office buildings comes from outside. If air quality is not regulated, there is an increased chance it will carry outdoor pollutants. Experts suggest installing ventilation systems that regenerate fresh air together with biophilic designs and living walls that provide organically filtered air.
Add Antimicrobial Materials
The coronavirus outbreak is likely to spur the production of environmentally-friendly materials. Office designs are already starting to break away from the norms of traditional work environments in order to incorporate features that nurture health and wellbeing.
Antimicrobial materials will be the next phase of care because they minimise contact of shared surfaces. Antimicrobial technologies are already being used to manufacture office fittings such as faucets, window shades, paint and doors. Floor materials with self-disinfecting characteristics are also available. Businesses are also advised to invest in furniture that is easy to clean.
When employees return to work there will still be some apprehension. Companies that take preventative measures help to keep your workforce and ease concerns of returning to the office.