Return to Office: 5 Key Spaces and How You Can Make Them Clean and Safe

Monday September 13th, 2021

Author: Staples Professional Inc.

As Canadian organizations look toward the future, many are getting ready to welcome back their employees. But when it comes to returning to the office, there’s one question on everyone’s mind: how, exactly, do you prepare this reimagined space?

“Business leaders are challenged with navigating new territory,” says Marisa Harris, Director of Hybrid Working and Learning Solutions at Staples Canada. “While we know there is no roadmap for businesses, it presents a chance to pivot and come back stronger and better.”

The good news is that Canadian employees want to start working in physical spaces again. A study conducted by KPMG found 63 percent of those surveyed said they want to return to the office. What’s more, according to global staffing firm Robert Half, 40 percent of Canadian business professionals believe it’s important to change the office layout.

No matter what your organization’s timeline might be to implement these transformations, Staples Professional has the services needed to ensure a welcoming, clean and safe environment for all associates. Here, we’ve identified five key spaces and how we can work with you to reimagine them.

  1. Reception and front lobby

Whether you’re welcoming visitors, interacting with employees, or accepting deliveries, the reception area provides an opportunity to make a positive first impression and reassure everyone that the space they’re walking into is a welcoming, safe and secure environment.

Based on your current setup, consider the signage you’ll need for proper distancing, what protective equipment to put in place (think: protective shields and hand sanitizer at the front desk) and if any furniture should be replaced with easy-to-clean alternatives. Additional considerations can include implementing temperature checks, leveraging technology for guests to do a self-check-in and providing them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits that include masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

  1. Desks

If your organization chooses to keep individual desk setups, it’s important that these workspaces support physical distancing that will allow your team members to feel safe.

“Clients are looking for furniture that is flexible and can adapt easily to changes within their workplace,” says Debbie Rogers, Sales and Strategy Training – Furniture, Technology, Print + Promo at Staples Professional. “We are seeing more demand for smaller, simpler workstations, an increase in collaborative seating, moveable screens, power and technology hubs.”

Our furniture specialists can work with you to provide solutions tailored to your space, including protective screens, easy-to-wipe desk chairs and cabinets, and increased dividing panel heights. Staples Professional can also provide your organization with disinfection products like wipes or an electrostatic sprayer, so you can ensure these spaces stay clean.

  1. Meeting spaces

Another study by Robert Half found that more than half of employees surveyed said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement. With this model, collaborative spaces will become vital and it’s important to ensure that employees feel safe when connecting in person.

“The majority of business leaders recognize the benefits of a hybrid model and adopting a flexible framework for work has benefits for both the employer and employees,” says Harris. “Embracing a hybrid model results in challenging the purpose of the office.  We do not need a sea of cubicles but instead a place to connect and collaborate.”

Consider the use of physical distancing markers, installing air purifiers, creating disinfection stations for employee use, and enhancing video conferencing capabilities to minimize the number of people in the space. “Cleaning and disinfecting are also top of mind for many in these areas,” says Rogers. “Consider replacing hard to clean fabrics for washable textiles.”

  1. Breakroom

The breakroom of yesterday is not the one of tomorrow, but at its core, it remains a space where employees can recharge and socialize. Make it a safe experience by planning for physical distancing (staggered lunch hours, removing tables, adding signage) and adding sanitization stations and hands-free receptacles, faucets and paper towel dispensers. You might also consider the use of protective film on high-touch surfaces and providing your employees with sustainable lunch kits to minimize the use of shared cutlery and plates.

  1. Restrooms and wellness rooms

Cleanliness has always been a priority for these spaces, but in this new era, enhanced protocols will be of utmost importance. Staples Professional can assist you by taking inventory of your current cleaners and disinfectants, assessing what to keep, and providing you with recommendations on products suitable for your facilities. Additionally, we can ensure you always have a steady supply of products and that both facility staff and associates have the proper PPE to navigate the space.

While welcoming back employees is centred around safety, wellness and cleanliness, there are additional benefits to be gained in the process, such as employee productivity and happiness, says Harris. “The workforce has been through a traumatic experience, so leaders will need to be empathetic and compassionate.”

Read more on how you can safely welcome back employees in our Return To Office Guide.

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