Sweeping new recommendations from the nation’s health protection agency would drastically alter how people work in offices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines range from technical — increasing air circulation and guarding against mold and stagnant water — to cultural, like recommending employees abstain from “handshakes, hugs or fistbumps.” Scientists last week warned that stagnating water in office buildings, left empty for months in some cities, could lead to the proliferation of bacteria, including Legionnaires’ disease.
The guidelines also recommend against using public transit, and instead suggest employers incentivize commuting to work alone or via single-occupancy rides. The risk of using public transit can be reduced by staggering shifts, and workers should wash their hands immediately after making the trip.
Before coming to work, employees would have their temperature taken, and be screened for symptoms — but the CDC warns against congregating in groups while waiting to be screened.
While in the office, workers should wear masks at all times and maintain social distancing whenever possible. Office guests, too, should be encouraged to wear face masks. The agency recommends that seating and office desks be spaced at least six feet apart — but if that’s not possible, it advises the installation of transparent shields or other physical barriers.
The changes would eliminate many features of American office culture. Instead of sharing a common coffee pot, offices should turn to pre-packaged, single-serve items. And workers would be encouraged to eat outside, instead of in a communal lunch room.
Some firms, including Cushman & Wakefield, had already set out to reimagine offices.
Other companies, including Facebook and Twitter, may opt to send their workers home rather than reinvent an office to adhere to the recommended practices, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that allowing its employees to work from home would enable it to draw from a larger pool of talent. The company estimated that over the next decade, half its workforce will be remote.