Social Distancing at the Office

Plexiglass: An Unlikely Hero

Though millions of Americans are still working from home to curb the spread of coronavirus, real estate companies and businesses are planning what a return to the office might look like.

International commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield (CWK) has introduced the concept of the “6 Feet Office” plan. This overview of the post-pandemic office includes adapted floor plans to ensure that each employee has a six-foot radius around them, as well as office traffic routing to avoid congestion in communal spaces where infections could spread.

Another key ingredient of the firm’s plan is plexiglass. When people return to public spaces, this transparent material may be a staple in offices as well as in restaurants, movie theaters, and even on the beach .

Because so many redesign plans involving plexiglass are being made, demand for the material is surging. The UK-based company Perspex International has seen plexiglass manufacturing jump 300% between February and March. The plexiglass industry has lost some business recently due to downturns in the retail industry, car manufacturing, and construction, but now it will be an important tool for stopping the spread of infection in public spaces.

High-Tech COVID Prevention at Work

Some companies are also planning to implement technology like thermal scanners and contract-tracing apps in workplaces. X.labs has developed an app called Feevr, which allows employees to take their temperature via a facial scan on their phones. The timestamped results can then be sent to a user’s employer.

While many of these measures may be necessary to keep workers safe, privacy advocates have raised concerns. Some say that protecting workers’ health should not come at the expense of protecting their privacy, especially since surveillance put in place now could remain even after the pandemic.

Are These Changes Here to Stay?

There’s a chance that many of the changes put in place now will be a part of workplaces in the US for years to come, even after COVID-19 is a thing of the past. While plexiglass between desks and thermal scanners might be inconvenient, some post-pandemic changes could be positive.

Working from home will likely become more normalized. As a result, more businesses may begin to reimburse employees for the costs associated with working remotely, like wifi bills and laptops.

Companies are also increasingly offering telehealth benefits to employees. A recent study found that 86% of companies surveyed are currently offering their workers some form of telehealth resources. This is another structure that may be here to stay, even after the pandemic.

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