After months of having employees working from home, many offices are now attempting to adapt in order to bring employees back into work safely. Many states are now beginning to…Read more
When COVID-19 first began spreading through the country, many office workers suddenly found themselves working from home. Many quickly embraced the idea and began implementing home offices to work long-term, while others set themselves up in a temporary location, hoping for a quick return to their normal office and workday schedule.
As events continue to unfold and scientists learn more about how the virus spreads, it looks as though many businesses who rely on full-time office workers will need to make adjustments to how they do business long-term. Until a vaccine is found, many workers may be hesitant to return to busy offices with open floor plans and fluid workspaces — once thought to be the cutting edge in workspace planning and employee retention, but now considered unsafe.
With offices and cubicles now considered a thing of the past, many workers are wondering what steps their companies will take to help keep them safe.
There are many ways to create a safe workspace, but most aren’t perfect options for large companies. After investing millions in open office floor plans, many hesitate to break up the space and scramble to redesign.
Why Social Distancing Is the Answer
Sharing a close space means that if one person carries the virus, the droplets that they may spread by raising their voice, talking, laughing, coughing or sneezing may pass to those around them, according to the CDC.
The best way to prevent the spread of the virus, according to the CDC, is to wear masks or face coverings. Still, it’s also suggested that you practice social distancing — remaining six feet apart — as the two combined are the best methods to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rather than having a fluid, open office area where people are encouraged to move workstations as needed and team up with various deskmates throughout the day, workers need to be able to keep their distance from one another.
In an office setting, this can be done in several ways, from designating one-way corridors and single-use bathrooms to setting workstations six feet away from one another. Putting up barriers between desks and between separate work areas and workstations can also help both as a visual cue to remain six feet apart, but also as a physical barrier.
Social Distancing Barrier Options
Social distancing barriers can take many forms. From basic plastic “sneeze guards” to more decorative materials, companies can take a variety of measures to keep employees safe while they remain productive.
The eight social distancing barriers shared below are attractive and effective and can help your employees remain safe while doing their jobs.
1. Personal Desk Partitions
Setting every workstation in the building six feet apart means you must double the amount of space or cut in half the number of workstations. If neither of those is possible, you will still need to separate workstations from one another, and putting a barrier up for each individual person can be an effective way of helping to contain germs and their spread.
The WorkScreen™ Glide, above, is one of several ways to create an attractive barrier between desks and workstations while also helping limit direct air currents. Like many products at Arktura, it’s available in an optional antimicrobial material that can help reduce the spread of germs through touch, as well.
Arktura’s high-performance PET Soft Sound® felt makes personal desk partitions like the WorkScreen™ Glide durable and lightweight. It will help create a quiet working environment for employees who may need a little solitude as they get used to working in an office environment again.
2. Colorful Social Distancing Markers
Sometimes you need less of a physical barrier to stop the virus, and more of a visual map to help direct people where to go. People can have difficulty judging how far apart six feet really is, and in what may have previously been an open office environment, it can be difficult to work inside cubicles or at workstations as it can feel confined.
That’s why having a vibrant, easy-to-install, vertical partition like the SoftScreen® Frequency is so effective. These sound-absorbing partitions standard on all SoftScreen® products not only help reduce noise in work areas, but they can also create an attractive visual marking system that clearly lets employees know what safe social distances look like.
3. Movable Dividers
Many companies may find that their needs change over time, as they adapt to social distancing and employees find their balance between working from home and coming into the office until the virus wanes. For that reason, many of the barriers you put up, either for visual cues or as physical barriers to keep employees safe, may need to be movable to be effective long-term.
Like all of the products in Arktura’s SoftScreen® lineup, the above Alcazar partitions can slide, hang or be wall-mounted. The versatility of installation gives you greater flexibility in how the panels are used, so they can be installed in a way that makes the most sense for your company. In addition to being great visual barriers, the SoftScreen® products also absorb sound, so that employees can conduct conversations from six-feet away without needing to yell to be heard.
4. Suspended Full Barrier Screens
Many offices today have open floor plans that have desks placed at intervals away from one another with no barriers between them. While that makes socializing easy, it also makes it easy to spread the virus.
You can easily maintain productivity and increase safety in an open office setting without compromising the open office aesthetic. These Suspended Groove Panels are another SoftScreen® product from Arktura and can be hung between desks or tables to create instant barriers. Like all the other SoftScreen® products, these panels also help absorb sound, so you can create a quieter office.
5. Room Partitions
Every office is different, and what works in one area might not work in another. If you have an open floor plan but want to put up some walls to maximize safety, then floor-to-ceiling room partitions might be the best installation option.
The SoftScreen® Groove Straight panels can be cable-mounted to create an immovable wall system, without building any actual walls. You can create safer offices, breakrooms, or hallways, while maintaining an open office feel.
6. Attractive Interior Design
Keeping employees safe is at the top of everyone’s list. Still, it’s also true that many of these partitions and barriers will likely be a part of the workplace for many years to come, so it makes sense to use materials and designs that enhance the style of your office space, rather than something that is utilitarian or boring.
The SoftScreen® Rain panels in the above image certainly meet this need. As a part of Arktura’s SoftScreen® lineup, they help block air currents and absorb sounds while also being pleasing to the eye, especially when made with Soft Sound®️ Wood Texture as in the image above. This pattern, along with many other SoftScreen® products, comes in a wide variety of colors and style options so you can be sure your installation matches branding and interior design goals.
7. Strategic Barriers
Barriers are good for blocking air currents, which in turn can help stop the spread of the virus. They also block light, however, which can make a space appear closed.
Luckily, half pattern products like these SoftScreen® Stellar panels can help block air currents for those seated, while allowing a little light to play through at the top. This lends some style and interest to the panels while also helping to control the virus’s spread.
8. Varying Degrees of Sound and Air Current Control
Sometimes a barrier can be used to block air currents from those seated. Other times it can be useful to help direct people away from certain areas, and in nearly all office environments, it can always be helpful to add some sound control as well.
Installing a variety of barrier styles, like the SoftScreen® Stack panel options pictured above, can provide a diverse set of solutions that are specialized for different areas of the office. The cohesive styling options means you can create a uniform aesthetic with varying degrees of barrier permeability. Choose the half pattern to block air currents in areas where people are seated, and full patterns when you need some social distancing markers or acoustic screens.
Update Your Office for Social Distancing
No one knows how long social distancing measures need to be in place, or whether there may be additional waves of COVID-19 that drives employees back home.
This can make it difficult for employers to know exactly how to keep their employees safe and feeling good about returning to work. As you consider retrofitting your office, consider these eight social distancing barriers to help you achieve your goals of creating a healthier, safer work environment while improving aesthetics for the long-haul.
Contact Arktura today to upgrade your office and protect employee health.