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  • Cicero Construction

How to Renovate Offices for Returning Employees in a Post-Pandemic Business World

Make your office COVID-Safe with these smart remodeling tips

PLAINFIELD, IL, APRIL 20, 2021 -- For the past year, office buildings across the country have either been unoccupied or had extremely limited occupancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many employees have now adjusted to working remotely, making them feel equally comfortable and safe to return to their old offices is a huge hurdle every business is currently facing. The first of many decisions for businesses to navigate is what design steps, if any, need to be taken to modify the existing workspace for a positive employee experience.

Cicero Construction Group, a general contractor specializing in commercial property renovation, offers these insights gleaned from working on COVID-19 worksites, and from its more than five decades of renovation experience.

  • Glass Walls and Partitions: Ever since the so-called "dot-com" boom of the 1990s, companies have gravitated towards an open, relaxed and energetic atmosphere—the opposite of the traditional, separated workplace now being recommended in the COVID era. While open concept spaces foster more collaborative and creative work, they also may spread the virus. Cicero Construction Group recommends going beyond simply rearranging desks to meet the required six-feet of social distancing, but to add glass walls that can be opened to combine spaces, therefore striking a balance between transparency and safety. Another tactic is to convert certain shared workspaces into individual offices with glass doors that allow employees to see and communicate while maintaining social distance. Protective shields can easily be installed to desktops, tables, benches and workstations for compliance with distance and hygiene rules, while offering a degree of sound-proofiing.

  • Automation: By adding automated "touchless" systems, employees will feel comfortable re-entering offices. Automated systems, like doors, faucets and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, prevent employees from touching potentially infected surfaces by requiring activation only by keycards or ID badges.

  • Office Furniture: Lightweight, dynamic and flexible furniture that can be easily moved, reconfigured and disinfected will help ensure the safety of employees plus provide the flexibility to quickly change a floor plan on-the-fly. In addition, microfiber sofas and chairs are easy to maintain and clean.

  • Kitchens: If an office has a kitchen, multiple refrigerators can be installed and assigned to different departments, instead of a common refrigerator. Installing easy to clean healthcare-grade finishes on the floor is also advised.

  • Fresh Air Purge: Fresh air purge systems are used to flush an office with fresh air overnight. Purging can also be achieved by opening the windows in the office without using the HVAC system; however, many office buildings do not allow windows to be opened. Upgrading HVAC with filtration, along with using CDC-recommended cleaning protocols on surfaces and floors, will create a safe haven for employees.

  • Reinvent Reception: Convert the reception area into a multi-purpose space where employees can disinfect their hands, take temperature measurements and pick up equipment such as masks and sanitary wipes. It can also serve as a physical reminder of the "new normal".

  • Monitors and cameras: Even when an office is reopened, many companies will not bring back all employees at once, or will set a staggered schedule for on-site and home alternation. Collaboration with remote workers will require enhanced digital video technology in a dedicated room. Installing video tools to facilitate digital work can naturally facilitate this kind of collaboration.

Returning to the office after this very unfamiliar and disruptive time will require additional effort on the part of businesses. Some safety measures may require a business to consult with a general contractor for renovations, ranging from small modifications to more important structural and mechanical upgrades. Companies looking for worry-free, low-risk renovations should work with an established general contractor with reliable project delivery processes and that are committed to maintaining COVID-safe worksites.

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