Millions of American workers will be returning to offices in the months to come—but employers may decide to keep millions more working from home instead of trying to comply with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency's guidance on reopening office buildings contains recommendations that would radically change many workplaces. Employers have been advised to keep desks six feet apart, or install plastic shielding where social distancing is not an option. They have been advised to ask workers to wear cloth face coverings at all times—and to "prohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps." The CDC says employers should try to make sure social distancing is maintained in all common areas and even in elevators, reports the New York Times.
The CDC has also advised employers to stagger shifts and start times to reduce the density of workers in common areas, and to "replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks" with pre-packaged, single-serving alternatives, Fox reports. Peter Kimmel at facilities management publication FMLink tells the Times that the CDC guide is a "good checklist of what needs to be done," but it also raises a lot of questions. "This means many fewer workplaces per floor, reducing the density considerably. Where will the remaining workers be housed?" he wonders. "While there are many solutions, these often require substantial thought and a budget that likely doesn’t exist." (Read more coronavirus stories.)