The pandemic continues as workplaces gradually reopen amidst stringent government restrictions. It seems the new norms for workplaces are going to stay with us for a while. Businesses and companies are now tasked with creating safer workplaces by increasing cleaning protocols, establishing capacity limits, and implementing touchless door unlock solutions.
The major guidelines recommended for all workplaces include:
- Ensuring social distancing at work
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of shared equipments, desks, counter tops and other surfaces
- Frequent hand washing and wearing of face masks if considered necessary
- Encouraging remote working and avoiding or minimizing face to face contact
- Minimizing the use of common touch surfaces
- Preparing and implementing procedures for identification, isolation, and quarantine of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19
Businesses are trying to embrace the new normal, even though it may be taking a toll on their productivity and profitability. Coworking spaces face a bigger challenge. They have sharing in their very ethos, but the new regulations discourage sharing and close proximity. How can you, as a shared office owner or manager, adapt to change while still maintaining the flexibility and shared culture of a coworking space?
Create a Safer, Smarter Coworking Space
Coworking spaces are shared offices where individuals and teams with diverse skills work independently or interactively while following their own work schedules. The occupants of most coworking spaces also share office-like resources such as the front desk, computers, printers,, kitchens, desks, conference rooms, coffee stations, and more.
Sharing of workspace and resources makes shared offices smarter and more economical than regular offices, which is why they’re the favorite haunt of startups, small businesses, and freelancers. The number of coworking spaces was projected to reach 50,000 around the world in 2020, doubling within a span of four years. Will that number be reached despite the pandemic and the consequent lockdown? It still remains to be seen.
If you manage a shared workspace you have to act now to adjust to the Covid related regulations. Here are the best practices you can follow to align your workplace with the new normal while making it safer and smarter for occupants.
Implement Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures
1. Institutionalize a system of regular cleaning and disinfection of the workplace. Always clean with soap or detergent before disinfecting. Use EPA approved disinfectants that have been found effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
2. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting hard and soft surfaces, electronics, and towels, curtains, and other items that go in the laundry.
3. Common user facilities such as the conference hall, meeting rooms, and workstations need to be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
4. Place disposable wipes such as Clorox or Lysol next to common touch surfaces such as door handles, pin pads, shared desktops, computers, printers, etc and ask everyone to wipe down the surface before and after each use.
5. Cleaning and disinfecting are mandatory after persons suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19 have been in the facility. Create a procedure for cordoning off the work area that was being used by an infected person before initiating cleaning and disinfecting procedure.
6. Workers involved in cleaning and disinfecting activities must wear disposable gloves and face masks while doing their job. Make sure the workplace has adequate stock of gloves, masks, wipes, detergents, and disinfectants.
Promote Frequent Hand Washing
1. The COVID-19 virus can spread when a person touches their nose, mouth or eyes after touching an infected surface or after shaking hands with an infected person.
2. Communicate with your tenants via email, display posters, and other means to ensure that everyone is aware about the importance of frequent hand washing.
3. Place hand sanitizers at office entry points and near all common touch surfaces and encourage their use.
Establish Isolation and Quarantine Procedures and Facilities
1. Workplace managers are responsible for identifying individuals with symptoms of Covid-19 and taking steps to place them in isolation or quarantine.
2. Use video surveillance to identify, inform, and isolate the close contacts of an infected or suspected person.
3. Reach out to all workplace users and emphasize upon them to stay home if they have even mild symptoms such as common cold, cough, sore throat, or chest congestion. WHO recommends self isolation for such workers as well as their close contacts.
4. Allocate a room for isolating a suspected case of COVID-19 and contact health authorities in your area for testing such individuals and placing them in quarantine if they test positive.
Evaluate the Existing Access Control System
The access control system at your coworking space can play a crucial role in stopping the spread of infections. Here are a few tips for upgrading your access control system to be safer and more secure.
1. Contact based systems such as pin pads and fingerprint scanners are out. It is estimated that contact-based biometric access devices will lose $2 billion in revenue this year as a result of COVID-19.
2. Key cards lack the features, security, and flexibility that a shared workspace needs in the new world. Cards can be copied and misused, making the workspace vulnerable to entry by unauthorized or infected individuals.
3. Smartphone access may be safer and more flexible compared to key cards and fingerprint scanners, but it does not prevent the risk of tailgating—the practice where an unauthorized person enters the coworking space by closely tailing behind an authorized person.
4. Face recognition based access control may be the best choice for coworking spaces in the post-COVID-19 era. In the latest generation of access control systems, AI powered facial recognition couples with electronic locks to provide completely touchless and safe access to workspaces. The system is fully cloud managed and makes it possible to observe who is entering the workplace in real time.
5. Integrate face recognition with infrared temperature scanners to alert the security team when a person is running a fever while entering the coworking space.
6. Use face recognition access control as a video intercom system between the office entrance and the front desk to minimize face to face interactions.
7. You can also use face recognition based access control for video surveillance to identify the close contacts of an infected or suspected individual.
The workplace is changing as we speak and coworking spaces have a big challenge ahead. They are required to maintain their culture of flexibility and sharing while adhering to the rather rigid and divisive regulations resulting from COVID-19. Panning for the future and getting a safer access control system may be your only options right now if you want your coworking space to weather the storm.