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April 21, 2020

RETURN TO OFFICES IN THE COVID-19 PERIOD

We are going through the days when Covid-19 is effective. We can neither predict exactly when the pandemic will end nor what awaits us afterwards. Currently, most companies have closed their offices, and trying to carry out their business with home working system.

This period has taught us all of the 'remote working' systems more. But we also tested that working from home is not what we imagined, and it is not healthy for our spirit and physics in the long term. It is against human nature not to change places or socialize in the long term. We realized the comfort of our office chair. Could we have guessed that Monday syndromes would be missed!

As a result, all institutions will start working in their offices again in a soft and slow process. The most important issue in this process is that the institutions ensure the health conditions of the employees: the employees feel themselves in a safe and healthy environment in the office and this will directly affect their productivity, work concentrations, and mental health.

However, it is useful to summarize the difficulties that our pre-Covid office environment has brought us in this regard:

•  Open offices: Themost common working environment in offices worldwide leads to the easy and free circulation of viruses.

•  High Density: Human density in offices that increase due to economic and physical reasons also creates the ideal environment for easy transmission of viruses.

•  Shared systems: Arrangements such as shared tables, project rooms, etc. allow contamination by contact.

•  Mobility: Theopportunities provided by the technology and the easy displacement of employees in the office cause the spread of the virus.

•  Social Areas: Social areassuch as cafes, dining halls and lounges are designed to make a large number of people can come together. The density in these areas makes the virus's job even easier.

•  Meeting Areas: Itcreates danger with its dense settlements like social areas.

•  Ventilation systems of buildings: It is a disadvantage that there are almost no windows that can be opened especially in plazas. Moreover, more importantly, the ventilation systems of the buildings are made with a system called recycling air. It means that the air in this space is mixed with a certain amount of fresh air and given back to the space. In other words, the distribution of viruses to the spaces again.

In fact, we came across a surprise that, these office trends of pre-Covid institutions which are very accurate in terms of efficiency, dynamism, energy, information flow and creative ideas are how suitable for the transmission of viruses. As a result, taking precautions in our offices is inevitable for every institution. Of course, following the rules set by the state and local authorities at every stage is one of the things that should be done already.

On the other hand, it is clear that many institutions will meet with an obstacle in terms of both budget and lack of new space while taking precautions. We tried to summarize what measures can be taken in 3 main stages as follows:

TAKING PRECAUTIONS:

Considering our knowledge about Corona Virus will increase over time, we have divided precautions to make return to offices smooth and accident-free in three main scheduling processes.
1)  Today
2)  Short Period
3)  Long-Term

1)  Today

We should foresee that when institutions begin to open their offices,50% of employees will return to the offices and the rest will continue to work from home. The first conditions to be followed are to provide 2 meters of social distance, physical separation with separators, panels, barriersand application of hygiene and disinfection strict conditions.

Another easy precaution is, to rearrange workstation layout in the open offices in order to provide both distances and to prevent people from looking face to face. Panels and separators between work stations will definitely be required.

-Shared desk systems should be abandoned. Furniture such as sofas and sofas in social areas should be allocated so that only 1 person can sit.

- Meeting rooms should be low density, video-conf meetings should be preferred even in the company

-Flexible working hours can be started.

- Employers should regularly and frequently clean and disinfect theoffice environment. In addition, employees should be asked to provide theirown hygienedisinfectant stations should be established where everyone can reach easily.

- Usage of social areas should be limited. The density should be reduced In cafeterias by applying shift order. Necessary disinfection should be done between each shift.

-All employees must use masks.

2) Short Term

When returning to offices, after the first soft transition has been achieved and the spread of the virus has been slowed down, the second step can be taken. At this stage, we assume that almost all of the employees will return to the office. Therefore, the office environment reorganization will be in question. 

- Especially, planning of open offices should be reconsidered and workstation arrangements that will ensure hygiene conditions should be planned.

-All workstations must be separated by separators, panels and barriers.

- Face to face working arrangements should be abandoned as much as possible.

- The furniture to be selected should have high flexibility, preferably modular furniture should be chosen.

- All materials should be replaced with materials that can easily offer hygiene and cleaning.

- Meeting venues should be arranged in a way that allows more standing meetings or social distance.

All employees should be provided with the technology to make video-conf and communicate with each other where they are sitting. In addition, video-conf systems should be widespread and easy to use, as travel restrictions will likely continue and meetings with other business companies will be needed. 

 

- Social areas should be reorganized and modular furnishings that allows individual use should be chosen.

- Contactless systems should be adopted in buildings as much as possible. For example, opening the doors with facial recognition systems etc.

-Hepa filters can be integrated into the ventilation systems.

Companies can benefit from co-working offices that are well organized and provide health conditions. 

3) Long Term

In the future, our knowledge of Covid-19 will increase and the situation will be much clearer. Solutions such as vaccines and medicines will be in use. However, it does not seem possible to return completely to the pre-Covid environment. It is necessary to adapt to such epidemics or other situations that we cannot foresee. Health in offices has to be at the forefront now.

All office spaces should be designed flexible, not permanent but can be easily adapted.

-In this stage, various furnishings which can be combined and separated, such as movable furniture, wheeled tables, (work desks, meeting tables, sofas...) should be used. Modularity should be given importance.

- Automation systems of buildings should be reconsidered, and employees should be able to circulate in the office without touching anything with a device such as a mobile phone. For example, calling the elevators from a mobile phone, opening the doors with facial recognition systems, controlling the lighting-ventilation from mobile phones…

-The materials that contain the virus for a short time, easy cleaned and disinfected should be developed and used in the entire working environment.

Of course, technologies such as video conferencing and vr will be indispensable.

Detector and scanning systems, which can detect the disease in various ways, will be activated.

-It is possible that disinfection systems such as the sprinkler system will be developed and can be used for general disinfection.

- Mechanical systems of buildings should be reconsidered, hepa filters should be used, recycled air in ventilation systems should be abandoned. There should be much more opening windows on the building facades.

-Remote working system will be more into our working life, so employers should also support working environments at home.

 

We are going through a very difficult and unfamiliar process. Companies that adapt to this process and take the necessary actions on time will enter the normalization process much more quickly and will be able to get out of this process by getting stronger. But we should not forget that ‘the normal system' will never be the old normal!

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