Study: Safely Reopening Office Buildings Will Require Planning, Innovation

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Managers need to enable efficient operations, follow social distancing guidelines

BOSTON – Safely bringing employees back into workplaces presents a significant challenge for employers located in office buildings, particularly when it comes to elevator operations and building entry and exit.  To address the challenge, managers must develop plans to control the flow of workers, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Balancing necessary social distancing guidelines and the need for employees to efficiently access offices will require innovation and careful planning,” said Rebekah Paxton, author of “Going Up: The Challenge of Reopening Shared Office Buildings in a COVID-19 World.”

May 25 was the official opening date for most Massachusetts office buildings—albeit with considerable conditions set forth in government guidance documents, while Boston buildings reopen on June 1.

Looking internationally, the One Canada Square building in London anticipates it can accommodate the expected volume of tenants and guests by moving up to 7,500 people per hour.  To do so, building managers have developed a system of designated doorless entry and exit to the building, elevators operated by PPE-equipped staff, and an estimated four-to-six-person elevator occupancy limit.

One Canada Square, with its 32 elevators that serve 50 floors, underscores a challenge for some of Boston’s most iconic properties. Boston’s Prudential Tower, for example, has 18 elevators serving 52 floors, according to a database compiled by The Skyscraper Center.  This may result in bottlenecks in the time of COVID-19.

Massachusetts’ reopening guidelines call for a limit of 25 percent of maximum workplace occupancy to limit the number of people entering office buildings and minimize back-ups in hallways, stairwells and elevator banks.  State recommendations specific to general office buildings advise managers and employees to “minimize use of confined spaces (i.e. elevators) by more than one individual at a time.” On Friday, May 29, the City of Boston released a “Return to Workplace Framework for Commercial Spaces,” which encompasses existing guidelines provided by the state for office buildings, and additionally limits elevator capacity to no more than four individuals at a time.

Employers are also developing a range of ways to manage reopening challenges.  Qualtrics, which has 25 offices across the United States, is identifying volunteers to take the stairs.  New York City-based Interpublic is taping social distancing blocks on elevator floors to show how many people can safely ride at once.  But a company official cautioned that this would translate to “two-to-three hours” to get all employees to their desks at one Interpublic location.

Technology can help address the challenge, and the report highlights examples of how various technologies can help facilitate the safe movement of individuals in multi-story buildings.  For example, Otis, an elevator technology company in London, provides apps that allow customers to call elevators with smartphones. QLess, a California-based app developer, provides apps that facilitate remote line formation, where users can be given an elevator wait time, during which they can be outside the lobby or even in their cars.

For social distancing and workplace efficiency to coexist successfully, Paxton urges that all those who can work from home continue to do so, and that employers implement flexible in-office days and staggered scheduling for those needing to access physical offices.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebekah Paxton is a Research Analyst at Pioneer Institute. She first joined Pioneer in 2017 as a Roger Perry intern, writing about various transparency issues within the Commonwealth, including fiscal policy and higher education. Since then, she has worked on various research projects under PioneerPublic and PioneerOpportunity, in areas of state finance, public policy, and labor relations. She recently earned an M.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics, from Boston University, where she graduated summa cum laude.

ABOUT PIONEER

Mission

Pioneer Institute develops and communicates dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond.

Vision

Success for Pioneer is when the citizens of our state and nation prosper and our society thrives because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation and economic opportunity, and when our government is limited, accountable and transparent.

Values

Pioneer believes that America is at its best when our citizenry is well-educated, committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise, and both willing and able to test their beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas.

Get Our COVID-19 News, Tips & Resources!

Related Posts

Christensen Institute Co-founder Michael Horn on Digital Learning & COVID-19

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.

COVID-19’s Impact on Rental Housing

/
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently debating a rental housing bill. What impact will it have on the many landlords for whom rental income is their only source of income?

COVID-19 Roundup from Pioneer: Will plans to re-open hurt civil liberties?; COVID-19 model skeptic; SCOTUS returns!; New podcast, HubWonk; 5 Tips for online learning & more!

/
Pioneer staff share their top picks for COVID-19 stories highlighting useful resources, best practices, and questions we should be asking our public and private sector leaders.

Which industry’s workforce has been hurt the most from the COVID-19 outbreak?

/
Unemployment claims have reached all-time highs in the U.S. recently…

New Study Calls for Re-thinking Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Care Standards

Pioneer's new study raises concerns about the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH’s) Crises Standards of Care (CSC) issued earlier this month, which bear the earmarks of a state bureaucratic effort and should be rethought under a process that includes a thorough vetting by Massachusetts citizens.

Pioneer Institute Launches Its New Policy Podcast, “HubWonk”

Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce the launch today of a new, weekly podcast called “HubWonk,” covering timely topics, with insights and in-depth interviews on the issues that affect our quality of life, ability to prosper, and liberties. 

Will the COVID-19-related economic recession cause a spike in crime?

/
Intuitively, it makes sense that people replace legitimate business…

New Report Offers Case Study for Transition to Online Learning

Virtual Schooling Pioneer Julie Young provides tips on how states should move forward with the transition to online education during COVID-19.

The Institute for Justice’s Tim Keller on Espinoza v. Montana DOR & ongoing school choice litigation

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by Tim Keller, Senior Attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is representing the plaintiffs in the high-profile Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court,.

State Ranking: Michigan, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Nevada have been hardest-hit by COVID-19 jobless claims so far. Massachusetts ranks as 9th hardest-hit.

/
The U.S. Department of Labor reported today that in the week ended April 4, the advance number of seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims was 6,606,000. This follows 6,867,000 initial claims filed in the week ended March 28 and 3,307,000 in the week ended March 21.

COVID-19 Roundup from Pioneer: Tracking drug discovery efforts; Secrets to Germany’s success; Unemployment tsunami; Voc-techs answering the call; COVID prevalence by town & more!

/
Pioneer staff share their top picks for COVID-19 stories highlighting useful resources, best practices, and questions we should be asking our public and private sector leaders.

COVID-19 unemployment surge is on pace to wipe out the MA Unemployment Reserve Fund within three months

/
The unprecedented surge of COVID-19- related unemployment claims that began two weeks ago is on pace to wipe out the MA unemployment Reserve Fund within three months, which will force state leaders to turn to the federal government for a bailout loan.