Bloomberg Businessweek|June 22, 2020
You have a lot to think about at the moment if you run a company. One of the biggest questions is whether to have employees return to the office, assuming your area allows it. How do you let people do their jobs and keep them safe? We asked scientists, interior designers, public-health and building experts, and others for their thoughts on what to do right now—and what to think about for the future.
WHAT’S MY PRIORITY?
“You should be identifying the core workers that you need to be physically present,” says Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard School of Public Health. Everyone else stays home. He says companies should follow the decades-old approach to keeping workers safe from chemical and biological hazards called the hierarchy of controls. Step 1 is “ elimination”—which in the case of Covid-19 reopenings means prohibiting anyone from a building who doesn’t need to be there.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
“Substitution,” Allen says. Today, that translates to siloing critical workers so they’re easily quarantined if necessary. Step 3 is “engineering controls,” aka how we make a building safe.
Air circulation is key. “Many buildings’ ventilation systems don’t meet basic standards,” says Ian Cull, president of environmental consultant Indoor Sciences Inc. Have your system evaluated by an indoor air-quality adviser—Google your city and “test and balance consultant.” You want the building to meet the standards of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
WHAT SPACE SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT MOST?
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June 22, 2020