Shared workspace environments are increasing in popularity among small businesses. They’re a great way for companies to cut rent costs, but they can bring in a larger influx of germs. Here’s how you can still enjoy the benefits of shared offices while keeping your employees healthy.
The Benefits of a Shared Work Environment
A shared workspace has multiple meanings. For some small businesses, it denotes images of a more open workspace where cubicles aren’t used and everyone works at large tables to facilitate teamwork, according to Fortune. Others think of it as a type of co-working space where an office belongs to a community of smaller businesses who divide up the space, Entrepreneur noted. This decreases rent costs and increases networking, encouraging smaller businesses to work together.
The downside to both types of shared workspaces is when the walls come down, so do the barriers that keep us separated from germs. There’s a greater chance that one sick person can infect everyone else if they’re all sharing the same space. If you use shared workspaces, plan ahead to keep your team as healthy as possible.
Encourage Sick Days
Employees often force themselves to come to work when they’re sick because they’re worried about reprimands from their boss or falling behind on their work. Foster a work environment that encourages people to take their sick days. Set up a system where they can call in and work from home if they’re not feeling well. If you offer sick days, consider not having them roll over from year to year, so there’s no incentive to work while sick and build those sick days up. Insist that obviously sick employees go back home and not work in the office, and set this example yourself. If you stay home when you’re sick, your employees are more likely to do the same.
Teach Healthy Habits
Teach your employees healthy work habits to help them stop the spread of germs, Texas A&M University advised. For example, keep disinfectant wipes at every station and encourage employees to wipe their phones and keyboards if they share office equipment. For some sensitive office equipment, such as monitors, you can buy specifically designed cleaning agents. Encourage cleaning coffee pot handles, door knobs, refrigerator handles and elevator buttons. Keep hand sanitizer nearby that employees can use when arriving and leaving. Encourage employees to wash their hands and avoid touching their faces, if possible.
Make healthy habits, such as vaccinations and getting plenty of sleep, a priority. Give employees time off to get a flu vaccine, rather than forcing them to go during lunch. Additionally, offer flex hours if an employee has to work overtime or over a weekend, so he or she can catch up on missed sleep. Well-rested employees are less likely to get ill.
Value Mental Health
In your quest to stop the spread of viruses, encourage a mentally healthy lifestyle, too. Open workspaces can be overwhelming for employees who are more introverted, according to Entrepreneur.com. Set aside space for quiet zones, where employees can retreat if they need time alone or need to concentrate. Encourage employees to bring headphones, too, if they need to escape into their own world for a particularly difficult project.
Shared workspaces and healthy employees aren’t mutually exclusive. However, it’ll take a little extra effort on your part to get the best of all worlds. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle and setting a good example yourself are great ways to get started.
Stephanie Dwilson has extensive experience providing expertise on topics including health, law and marketing. She’s a science journalist published by Fox News, a marketing expert and a non-practicing attorney with experience in personal injury law. She’s also a small business expert featured by Businessweek and has worked as a PR lead for one of the largest churches in America.