Infection control measures for workplace access in the ‘new normal’ office.
At time of writing, Covid-19 isolation infection control measures are relaxing, and workplace management are making considerations of when to bring back their teams, what adjustments will be made prior to their arrival back, and what implementations would employees like to see introduced to ensure a safe and effective return to the workplace.
More and more employees will gradually be asked back to work, but things will not be the same as they were; much has changed as Covid-19 has brought about a new normal. Team managers and HR departments should heed the advice given by authorities to conduct the return to work in an assured but careful manner.
From a staff perspective, employees will of course have their own concerns and requirements prior to commuting back into the workplace. What infection control measures will employees accept as sufficient, as they too adapt their own behaviour and processes to begin integrating again with their team at work?
Social distancing measures
As the main entrance, the lobby or reception is a focal point of congregation and stakeholder throughput activity. The majority if not all employees and visitors will travel through the same entrance area, and consequently, it would be wise to contemplate infection control implementations, if people are to remain socially distant whilst in their work location. For example, entrance gates can be repositioned from a horizontal row to a staggered design which will permit more space between lanes. Reconfiguring the layout of such high activity areas (lobbies, breakout areas, meeting rooms etc), will help prevent congregation and enable a greater social distance between agents within the area.
One-way traffic flows can be enforced to encourage organised movement around the area and prevent the crossing of walkways. By structuring flows of traffic into one organised clockwise direction, systematic measures can be taken to make sure passage to workstations and around the workplace are effective in allowing space between people.
Buffer zones and markers can be introduced at work to indicate the location of an occupied area to all personnel and prevent accidental interference of said placement. Markings on the floor and on walls serve as visual cues which will help to compartmentalize zones of where people should reside; creating an ownership of space which could encourage employees to feel more secure as they would have their own area of floor footprint.
As implemented in public facing organisations such as supermarkets, shops and public transport and taxi services, transparent plastic screens may be considered for installation at desks, in the lobby / reception, at concierge or canteen / breakout areas as a barrier to prevent potential cross-contamination and protect workers.
PPE has also been used extensively worldwide to protect both the wearer and a passer-by in the resistance against Covid-19 transmission. Facial masks are the most popular worn item and can help prevent contagion from infectious diseases and pathogens.
Going forward, office management might consider making the wearing of PPE mandatory for all staff; the associated checks of which should be contemplated in preventing admittance unless suitable PPE Is worn. Automated PPE checking systems and technology are available to assist with this.
Adoption of technology
Alongside the automated PPE checking technology available, automation is highly recommended as an adoption in particular reference to the welcoming back of employees post-pandemic. Automation prevents people having physical contact with appliances and enables contactless movement through the building.
Such recognition devices implemented within access control and applications throughout the office can include biometrics, infrared movement sensors and voice recognition. All of these can grant an action to be performed without the necessity of physical contact.
Contactless pathways begin at the entrance, and automated processes can facilitate seamless, safe and convenient movement through the workplace without a user ever needing to touch a surface, thus decreasing the risks of infection.
Smart flows can further assist automation by instructing visitors and employees where they are required to go from point of access gate (i.e which lift to take). Artificial intelligence can point a user to the least occupied space in sequence and prevent a build-up of users in a typically frequently occupied space. This automated process makes the best use of time and space, and can therefore provide an additional aid to socially distancing employees.
As professional organisations contemplate bringing their workforce back into the office, transparent and open conversation between employees and employers should be encouraged to ensure that both parties needs are met. Employees may still be cautious and anxious about a return to the workplace, with the arrangements made prior to their return a key concern in accepting the terms of a comeback.
The lobby or reception area will be a key area for the provision of new arrangements made in line with a Covid-19 infection prevention response.
Screening can be performed prior to entry and can prevent individuals experiencing symptoms from accessing the site; securing the workplace as safe and infection-free in order to protect the teams onsite.
Gunnebo Entrance Control have released a new white paper containing more detailed discussion on safe returning to work measures. This paper looks further at organising processes and procedures to facilitate social distancing measures, what kind of health screening can be performed prior to user entry, and how to bring automation technology into the workplace to ensure processes are met, thereby safeguarding all stakeholders within the building at point of access.
Posted by Teresa Short