29 Mar Returning To the Office. Are You Ergo Prepared?
With vaccines on the rise and a unique blend of optimism and precaution, business leaders are daring to peek around the corner and start thinking about what a return to the office might actually look like. And while some companies have already announced grand re-opening dates as early as May or June of 2021, others are taking a wait-and-see approach and projecting re-opening dates into the fall of 2021 and even for early 2022.
No matter when the re-opening occurs for your company, there are many things to consider in your re-entry plan. COVID safety precautions, vaccination policies, exposure plans, disinfection, social distancing, onsite visitor policies, how to offer simple things like coffee and snacks. What to do with employees who prefer to continue WFH? Will there be assigned seating? Unassigned seating? A hybrid? The questions and growing checklists are rather daunting, but also exciting.
But as I read the checklists for the long-anticipated grand re-opening, I all too often see gaps in the ergonomics checklist, or worse, no ergonomic checklist at all. Ergonomics has never been more important than it is at this moment in time as we have just passed the one-year mark of working from our couches, dining room tables, hammocks, bedrooms, dresser tops, yoga mats, and whatever else has been available. And make no mistake, it has most definitely taken a toll on our bodies and our psyches.
Returning to the office, only complicates and increases the need for a thoughtful and well-executed ergonomics plan. How many employees continue to work from home (WFH)? Are they truly set-up well to do that from an ergonomics perspective? How many will work from the office (WFO)? Will anyone have an assigned seat? Will there be hoteling in place? Will it be a combination with employees now working in a new hybrid fashion – at home and in the office? Did employees take home furniture from their office? If so, will they be bringing it back? If they also work at home, then will new chairs and desks be needed?
There’s A LOT to think about. But here’s the good news. With the right plan, resources and questions asked upfront, the solutions are more straightforward than you may think. In the end, it will boil down to the following things:
- Talking to your employees and finding out what their needs are. (Don’t be afraid of this one, as it is a vital part of your company having a successful re-entry.)
- Working with your partners (ergonomists, space planners, furniture vendors, etc.) to be able to provide what is needed. (I.e., accommodations for WFH, for WFO and Hybrid)
- Educating everyone in your organization on the basics of a healthy ergonomic set-up and healthy work strategies to make this a success for everyone.
Return To Office Ergo Checklist
To help you out, we have put together a preliminary checklist to help you think through and develop your ergonomics checklist for now and for the future.
Survey your employees.
- Poll how many will plan to be back at the office, if so, how often.
- How many will continue to WFH?
- What are their ergo needs now while WFH?
- What are anticipated ergo needs when WFO?
Audit Your Offices.
- Did employees take home furniture (chairs, monitors, keyboards, desks?)
- Will they be bringing them back?
- Will they need a replacement set for WFH?
- If hoteling, what will you be providing on the desktops for employees?
- Do you have sit/stand desks? Is the height range at the ideal 22”-50” to accommodate varying height needs?
- Are chairs adjustable?
- Will there be external monitors provided? If so, are there also laptop stands and docking stations or other easy way to plug into the monitor?
- If not, do you have laptop risers available?
- Will employees bring their own keyboards and mice along with their laptops (recommended due to best hygiene practices)
- Can your organization provide mobility kits? (Laptop riser, keyboard and mouse)
- How will you accommodate special needs?
- Do you have a cleaning system in place?
- Will there be enough distance between employees?
- Will there still be common and shared working spaces? (Meeting rooms, soft seating, kitchen, cafeteria). If so, what is the safety plan for that?
- Do you have an overall COVID safety plan?
With so much to think about, we’d love to hear what your plans are and we are also here to help you think through each aspect of our collective next step on this COVID journey to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety.
Until the next time!