Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

CDC Recommends Big Changes to Office Life

Health + Wellness
CDC Recommends Big Changes to Office Life
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.


If companies choose to follow the guidelines, it would lead to a dramatic change in the corporate work experience, and likely increase pollution. One of the most striking features of the recommendations is that they upend years of environmental activism that urged people to take public transportation or car-pool. The new recommendations suggest avoiding public transportation and driving to work alone, as The New York Times reported.

The CDC's new recommendations suggest making this cost-effective. "Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking for commuting to work alone or single-occupancy rides," the guidelines say.

However, the guidelines did not address the environmental impact of such policies or the health impacts from increasing traffic congestion.

Besides making the commute a lonelier and less environmentally friendly, the guidelines also make the office environment lonelier. The CDC recommends placing workers six feet apart. If that's not possible, then companies should erect plastic shields around desks, remove seats in common areas, and avoid perks like coffee machines and snack bins that encourage communal activities and many people touching them, according to The New York Times.

In another environmentally damaging recommendation, the CDC does leave room for replacing those items with pre-packaged single-serve coffee and snacks.

"Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as prepackaged, single-serving items," the guidelines say.

The guidelines also address the technical aspects of the office. The CDC recommends employers ensure that building ventilation systems are operating properly. It also encourages allowing as much fresh air as possible by opening windows and doors, when feasible, to "increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible," as Fox News reported.

The guidelines also eliminate many office norms and pleasantries that were once common place. The guidelines tell employers to "[p]rohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps." It also recommends that employees wear a cloth face mask "in all areas of the business," as Axios reported.

The guidelines encourage daily health checks, including temperature screenings before employees enter the workplace, and to send home sick workers. Then the office should go through enhanced cleaning and disinfection, as Axios reported.

The New York Times noted that many white-collar offices have successfully transitioned to a fully distributed workforce and are finding that their office environment is able to continue through video conferencing and Slack channels. With that in mind, companies might find the cost of putting protective measures in place too steep, or they might find that isolation in the office makes it difficult to recruit and retain talent. Businesses may decide to allow their workers to stay home.

Already companies like Twitter and Square have decided that their employees never need to come back to the office.

"Companies, surprisingly, don't want to go back to work," said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit think tank, to The New York Times. "You will not see the drum beat and hue and cry and rush to get back to the office."

Milkyway from Segara Anak - Rinjani Mountain. Abdul Azis / Moment / Getty Images

By Dirk Lorenzen

2021 begins as a year of Mars. Although our red planetary neighbor isn't as prominent as it was last autumn, it is still noticeable with its characteristic reddish color in the evening sky until the end of April. In early March, Mars shines close to the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less