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How Do You Safely Phase People Back to the Office?

By Patrice Fatig posted 06-18-2020 15:41


Life is full of ups and downs, especially now.  As we continue returning to work, we are changing directions again – up for some, down for others.  Numerous articles discuss what it may be like when we return.  The communal coffee pot and water fountain will probably be closed along with communal gathering spaces.  Hand sanitizer dispensers will dot the landscape.  Proper hand-washing will continue while access to bathroom facilities will be limited with social distancing requirements.  People will be wearing masks, keeping their social distance.  New physical barriers may separate workspaces. Temperatures may be checked.  Employees will be asked to self-assess their health.  (And, if one is asymptomatic, what does a temperature check and self-assessment prove?)  New cleaning regiments will be extensive.  No more borrowing a co-worker’s pen as the sharing of work materials is discouraged.  Some co-workers may continue to work from home.  The number of co-workers in the office may be limited.

It was only recently that I saw articles about what it may look like returning to work – getting from home to office.  Some people are concerned about taking mass transit; so, experts are warning about a “Carmageddon.”  Carpooling isn’t an option.  Even staggered start and departure times could bring traffic to a standstill with rush hours worse than before.  Fortunately, parking may not be an issue if staffing is limited.

In multi-floor office buildings, new challenges await.  Climbing the stairs may be an option for some, if they work on the lower floors.  Escalator users should avoid touching hand rails and maintain social distance.  Experts think that no more than four people should be in an elevator at a time, one in and facing each corner.  No talking, no touching the walls or rails.  Wash or disinfect your hands after using the elevator.

New products are being developed or offered to enhance the safety of elevator riding. There are devices to help push buttons.  One article suggested stocking up on toothpicks to use to push a button.  Another suggested using a tissue, cloth or a glove.  Nice idea if you don’t have a touch-screen panel.  I’m currently looking for my stylus.

Safety experts are, however, hopeful that exposure risk will be minimal with the short time one would be in the confined space of an elevator as current research shows that the virus is most likely contracted through close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods.

The issue of maintaining social distancing while waiting for an elevator may be challenging.  We may see “amusement park” queues in elevator lobbies as we wait to take that up or down ride.

Whatever lies ahead, I hope all will be patient and understanding, flexible and cooperative as we are all on this ride together.  Sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the ups and downs that await us.  It should be interesting.