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Illustration by Chris Philpot

Is It Possible to Design a Pandemic-Proof Office?

Probably not—but Colorado’s Health Capitol, a new shared space for wellness nonprofits, has a plan to keep its tenants as safe as possible from COVID-19.

This past March, about a week before Healthier Colorado was set to sign a lease for its Colorado’s Health Capitol project (a joint space for wellness nonprofits intended to spark collaboration through proximity), COVID-19 shuttered offices across the country. “We had to ask ourselves: Is this the best time to bring people together indoors?” says Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado, which advocates for anything that boosts the well-being of Coloradans. “We decided we could design a space that keeps people safe.” At press time, Colorado’s Health Capitol was slated to launch in December—welcoming tenants such as the Bell Policy Center and One Colorado—and as more offices begin to reopen in 2021, we asked Williams to walk us through the design elements intended to keep the facility pandemic-resistant.

Illustration by Chris Philpot

1. Hustle & Flow
Require masks at all times and implement a physical design that spaces people at least six feet apart and generally avoids unanticipated close contact. Provide multiple pathways and indicate designated walking directions down corridors so people don’t meet face to face.

2. Get Some Air
Make sure your ventilation system meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Not only does this help with disease transmission, but it will also make your employees happy come allergy season.

3. Look But Don’t Touch
Install foot pedals on doors—especially bathroom doors. Also, push or lever handles permit workers to use, say, their backs or elbows and are less germy than traditional doorknobs.

4. Teamwork Makes the Clean Work
Enforce a standing policy that all common surfaces are cleaned regularly. Make it mandatory, for example, for employees to wipe down the conference room table—using a provided spray bottle and paper towels—when they’re done using it.

5. Put Your Hand Sanitizers Where I Can See Them
Create sanitation stations to encourage frequent hand cleansing. (Colorado’s Health Capitol’s design calls for 20.) Think of places where it would be ideal to disinfect, like before entering and leaving common spaces.

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