The COVID Security Dilemma Designers Face


The issue of workplace safety during the COVID-19 era is fraught with confusion and anxiety, in part due to what appears to be an ever-changing public health landscape – and also exacerbated by an unfortunate mix of sometimes conflicting state and local regulations, policies, and significant differences of personal opinion.

The problem is particularly thorny for interior designers, for whom the “workplace” includes not only their own studio, but all other spaces – schools, offices, health facilities, private homes, etc. – where they work on behalf of their clients. Add to that the slowdown in COVID vaccinations in the United States and the fact that even the matter getting a photo has become controversial, and it’s easy to see why, for some business leaders, the simple effort to protect themselves and their team has come to feel like they are negotiating a minefield without doing anything. explode hard-earned professional relationships.

Taking care of the home is relatively easy, especially for Iantha Carley, a designer in the Washington, DC area. “Well, I don’t have any employees, and I’m vaccinated,” she laughs. “I have someone who works with me part time and she is vaccinated. If I had employees, that’s something I stress. Angie Hranowsky, of Charleston, South Carolina, reports similar unanimity in her company: “We have all been vaccinated. It wasn’t even really a discussion, you know; I didn’t have to ask anyone. We were all pretty much all on board.

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However, when customers are factored into the equation, along with all those contractors, painters, wallpaper installers, and delivery crews constantly coming in and out of a job site, things quickly get more complex. According to Jennifer Clapp, head of interior design at Hacin + Associates in Boston, vaccination among company employees is universal and has been carried out without controversy. Beyond the office doors, however, “there remains a wide range of opinions and comfort levels among our clients on the subject of unvaccinated people working from home,” says Clapp’s colleague Rob Clocker, who serves. responsible for the practice. “It is generally best to leave the subject of subcontractor vaccination requirements to the general contractor and his understanding with the client. “

Chicago designer Brynn Olson continued to rely on masks as a primary line of defense. “We realize that some people cannot be vaccinated for autoimmune or religious health reasons, and want to remain as impartial as possible with all parties,” she says. “Therefore, we feel [our] The mask policy has worked very well for us throughout the pandemic and now to keep everyone healthy. “

Hranowsky is reluctant to insist on vaccinations outside of his own staff. “At the moment, I’m certainly not asking ‘Has your team been vaccinated? (She describes a house undergoing renovations where “there was a large piece of paper on the front door that said everyone entering the house had to wear a mask,” which later required an addendum: “and it should completely cover your nose and mouth. “) Yet, she said,” I don’t know if I would tell someone exactly what to do. I think you hope people are smart about it.

Designers certainly realize that they need to be proactive in protecting themselves and their customers in a host of situations that previously would not have been occasions for concern. Carley mentions a case where, during a project, a member of the client’s household did contract COVID. “So we immediately succeeded in this project. I have also had clients who have vacationed in an area like Florida. They come back and I’m like, “Well, I’m not going to meet you for at least seven days. I didn’t bring back my entrepreneurs either. It’s just something they have to deal with. Olson of Chicago also requires all employees who have traveled in quarantine until they can produce a negative COVID result. Hranowsky has an upcoming facility (also in Florida) and plans to contact the family ahead of time and agree on precautions. At the very least, this pandemic has added additional masks and hand sanitizer to the list of items you bring with every facility or site visit.

Nonetheless, the pressure to insure workers vaccinated may intensify as the rise of the Delta variant and the advent of breakthrough infections have sapped optimism last summer. As Carley says, “I met clients and at first after they got their doses they were a little more carefree. Now they have become more diligent again. Herself is resolved: “I’m not going to work with someone I know isn’t vaccinated; I’m not going to take that kind of risk.

So, in the midst of the current uncertainty, at least one thing seems clear: until there is greater consensus on the vaccination front, or herd immunity is – in some way or another. in another – achieved in another way, many of the COVID security measures of 2020 should still be considered good practice.

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