Adapting your workspace for the COVID era: Six tips for going back

From enhanced cleaning protocols to new workplace etiquette, there are several key issues for companies to consider in order to make a safe, thoughtful transition back to the workspace. There’s also a lot at stake, with the health and wellbeing of team members top of mind. Not to mention the need to provide a welcoming environment that offers the community and collaboration your team members have been missing.

Our seasoned workspace experts are hard at work preparing for Team Knotel’s return to our NYC HQ. We’ve pulled together some of their top tips for transitioning teams back safely, from practical considerations, like desk sanitizing, to rethinking how people interact with the workspace environment.

1. Ask questions

Before drawing up a plan to return, take time to research and learn more about people’s concerns and reservations about returning. At Knotel, for example, we conducted surveys during our remote work period and used those findings to inform an approach.

In response to the pandemic and employee concerns, our finding was that we needed a stronger focus on the cleanliness, communication, and security of our spaces.

2. Clean like you mean it

Ensure every area is carefully cleaned, including the reception area, workstations, common areas, kitchens, and washrooms. Consider electronic deep cleans (which use electrostatic spray technology to evenly coat surfaces), when necessary. Hand-sanitizing stations are also key at workspace entrances, so employees can feel peace of mind knowing they can sanitize immediately when entering.

Also look into the frequency and degree of HVAC maintenance to ensure fresh airflow. Work with HVAC vendors to ensure you have MERV-11 and MERV-13 filters to keep as much clean air as possible circulating through the office.

3. Stay connected

An easy way for companies to manage space capacity is by requiring employees to reserve a spot in the workspace for the days they plan to attend. Knotel’s free HealthyOffice web application, with capability for Slack integration, facilitates this reservation system and requires a health screening prior to entering the workspace. Another useful benefit is anonymous data collection, whereby companies can analyze space usage over time and conduct contact tracing should the need arise.

If you're interested in trying HealthyOffice, email us at and our team will be happy to help you.

4. Protect yourself (and others)

Require anyone visiting your office to wear proper PPE at all times. Consider making PPE, including hand sanitizers, gloves, and face masks, readily available at entrances.

To facilitate social distancing, optimize the workspace to adhere to CDC guidelines and encourage safe collaboration. For instance, place Xs on adjacent desks and in between each chair around a table to discourage use. Another great tool is wayfinding signage, which can be used to guide foot traffic around the space and remind employees about social distancing.

5. Get to know your building

Ask your building owner for more information on their policies, procedures, requirements, and any building changes that they’ve made to mitigate and help slow the spread of COVID-19. Knotel’s workspace managers also also work with building management to ensure our vendors and visitors can access the space and that proper PPE protocols are enforced within common areas.

6. Have a plan for positive tests

You really can’t be overprepared when it comes to dealing with a pandemic, especially when time is of the essence. Ensure your team has a plan of action should a team member test positive for COVID. Here is our own, as an example:

If someone tests positive in one of our spaces, the customer is required to inform us and we then inform the building and our relevant market leaders. We will keep the lines of communication open to share any new developments. After that, we work with the customer to perform a disinfecting clean in the space as soon as possible and update the building when it’s been completed.

Alternatively, if someone from a non-Knotel floor tests positive, the building will inform us — which we will then relay to our customer so that they can take proper action.

We’ve spent a lot of time supporting our customers and designing change management programs, navigating with our partners, and implementing important changes that will shape the way we manage health and safety in the future. Despite the difficulties, we are better for it. We hope these tips we’ve learned along the way help you plan your own eventual return. You can also email to set up a free consultation with our workplace experts.