By Jim Mumford, Good Earth Plant Company
Whether you’ve lost a loved one or friend, a job, or your personal freedom due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been rough on just about everyone. The way we look at the places we live, work, and play will never be the same.
The coronavirus pandemic forced many of us out of the workplace. For the 40 percent of the population who can work from home, some now realize how much better they perform (unless you have to homeschool your kids at the same time).
Now we have the opportunity to accelerate the rate of change already in motion. Building owners and facilities managers must work with human resources professionals to keep employees safe and healthy at work. Why stop at the minimum? It’s time to improve the office environment so employees will choose to return instead of working at home.
Expensive rebuilding or retrofitting isn’t necessary to get these benefits. Here are our suggestions based on four decades of experience.
Improve your indoor air quality. Add filters, use less plastic and synthetics, and add plants to scrub the air of toxins and carbon dioxide. Plants are nature’s natural air filters; trees are nature’s lungs. They work hard for nothing more than a little light, water, and care.
Add access to outdoor spaces. Working outdoors is one of the safest places for your employees to gather. Now there’s a real practical incentive to consider adding green rooftops, planted decks, ground floor gardens, or moving lunchrooms to patios where there is fresh air, plants and trees, and room for social distancing.
Bring nature inside. Adding design elements created from nature or mimicking nature can decrease stress, enhance creativity, and decrease sick days including mental health days. Adding living walls or moss walls, mobile room dividers filled with plants, installing floors using reclaimed wood (one of our favorites!), and potted plants can work wonders. We’ve seen it happen.
Modify your footprint. Floor plans moving forward need to give employees a more hygienic environment by providing more space. Just like airline seats, the amount of square feet per employee in the typical office has shrunk from 225 square feet per person in 2010 to just 125 to 150 square feet today. This provides the OSHA recommended spacing of three feet between people. That’s not going to cut it anymore. Relaxing density will be critically important.
In the post-pandemic world we’re going to live in from now on, healthy workplaces won’t be a luxury. They’ll be a necessity. They will also be a competitive advantage for recruiting and retaining key employees. When your employees can choose to work at home but you value having them present in a collaborative workspace, you have to create a working environment so appealing and productive your employees will choose your office space over their home office space.
If you need more information on living walls, mobile room dividers or potted plants for your office, contact Jim from Good Earth Plants at 858.576.9300