21-May-2020 : Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”. This week’s article talks about getting back to your workplaces safe and healthy.
Full article below: (Also available at The New Indian Express Website)
Getting ready for a transition
As the world prepares to slowly come out of lockdown in various stages and phases, most of us are happy to get back to the daily office routine. It’s a reasonable assumption that this period of forced remote working may normalise the practice sufficiently across many work forces. Working from home may well become a more consistent part of our future work as we face the ‘waves of virus’. But for those of us who are looking forward to being back at our desks there are still doubts on our safety and health. Is there adequate distancing at desks? Are we more likely to get sick with the air conditioning on? Is there a chance that the door handles are not sanitised enough? All of these and more are on everyone’s mind as they safeguard their health and by extension that of their families.
The GRIHA Council in response has developed a Building Fitness Indicator (BFI) — which is a tool to help create a sense of safety within office buildings. The BFI is developed as a self-assessment tool that will allow building/organisation owners to measure the preparedness of the workplaces for the workforce in order to prevent possible exposure to COVID-19. The larger intent is of course to provide reassurance to the occupants regarding their safety and comfort within the offices before everything bounces back to normal. The tool is developed as a checklist to assess the measures adopted by building proprietors and managers to ensure hygiene and ventilation in workplaces.
The resulting analysis would appear as readings on a meter, indicating whether or not the organisation is prepared to combat this highly contagious disease. The tool will provide guidance based on the standard practices followed across the globe (like WHO, OSHA) and in the country (MoHFW) to prevent the workplace exposure to COVID-19. The tool is available online at https://www.bfi.grihaindia.org/ and can be used by anyone with a simple email registration process. The BFI tool is broadly divided in three groups — Workplace, Workforce and Awareness.
Each group is further sub-divided into Policy, Social Distancing and Hygiene. By going through a series of questions and selecting your answers you can ascertain your current status and area of improvement (if any). This also helps firm up the thinking around many of the policies which will be required in workplaces and businesses going forth. More than anything else, the return to normalcy and work will require attention to the morale of workers. The human component of returning to office life requires as much focus as the practical one. For staff who have been away from their workplaces for weeks or months, returning will feel unsettling. Much may have changed in the interim. Some of their old teammates may not be returning at all. With so much change ahead of us, it is important to stay focused on what is important — the health of all workers and their families. Also it is important to stay cognizant to the health of the planet and all the creatures on it. Stay safe through this transition period — at home and at work!