How To Reopen Your Office

How To Reopen Your Office

April 25, 2020 1 By Chris

Many of us are anticipating a return to the office in the near future. As we approach that it may be worthwhile to think through how that return may play out for your office. I’ve been thinking though some of the logistics of this in my own office and feel the need to come up with a plan on how to do this effectively. This past week, I listened to a presentation on how one might open the office and thought I’d pass along some of my takeaways with the caveat that we are learning daily about what is and isn’t effective, so here’s the list:

  1. Prepare your building. If you are a tenant in a building, you should reach out to the landlord to ensure they have a plan in place for returning employees coming through the common areas. Questions to ask might focus on the lobby, will there be a cleaning station once inside, HVAC system updates (i.e. replace filters with HEPA filters), etc. Once inside your office, some areas of focus might include having updated cleaning procedures, providing PPE to employees, providing cleaning supplies in high touch areas like break rooms, copiers, front desks, etc.
  2. Prepare your workforce. As employees have been away from the office, you will likely need to develop a line of communication to employees on what they can expect prior to coming back. Once communication starts, educate everyone on what new policies and procedures are going into effect and put some thought into who should return.
  3. Control access. Look at the access points to your office and think about how you can control ingress/egress to your office. Areas to review are your reception, shipping, receiving, etc. Consider implementing visitor policies which can include the number of visitors, where they sit in the lobby, and their access to the conference room. Also, remember that you should consider providing PPE for everyone who visits your office.
  4. Create a social distancing plan. One place to begin is to look at your office layout and see if you can designate foot traffic patterns for everyone so that it results in less interactions. Another good social distancing plan is to consider staggered work schedules so less people are in the office at any given time. Install shields if you have a lot of visitors coming into your space. You can also limit in person meetings and rope off common areas where employees are likely to congregate.
  5. Reduce touch points. Assuming you have already addressed the cleaning practices and have made it easy for employees to clean their hands, you can remove high touch tools from the office (i.e. remove that stapler that everyone uses and buy a stapler for everyone in the office). Place cleaning wipes next to equipment like copiers and printers. One more area worth considering is whether or not it’s possible to install a touch less ingress and egress into your office. Look in your break room and see what changes need to be made there so employees have to touch less and maybe you make it mandatory that everyone who enters the break room mush wash their hands first before touching anything.

Obviously, these are all new steps for most of us and require some thought. My recommendation is to plan to do something, instead of nothing. Communicate with your office and make it a team effort as most people will want to help ensure things are clean and safe. Like most things, a lot can be accomplished with some very simple changes and the results should go a long way.

If you have questions on this or any other commercial real estate topics, please feel free to reach out to me via email. My email address is ccrabtree@lee-associates.com. In the meantime, stay safe and focused!