The Mill’s COVID Safety Plan
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As a center for entrepreneurship and coworking, The Mill is meant to bring people together. Our 200+ members share many common areas, and guests are frequent. While we normally love the possibilities generated by connection and contact, in the age of coronavirus, those possibilities become vulnerabilities. Our reopening plan was designed to minimize health risks for everyone at The Mill: staff, members, and guests.
This plan was developed using feedback from a member survey on their top concerns; research on how coronavirus is transmitted and ways to reduce risk; feedback from Cook Executives on our draft plans and safety features; advice from HVAC professionals; staff input; and more.
These changes were implemented to support reopening in phases starting June 1. As the summer proceeds, we will re-evaluate which protocols to continue, adapt, or discontinue.
The Mill’s reopening plan addresses the following areas:
- Building and space adaptations
- Safety protocols
Building and Space Adaptations
The Mill’s building improvements aim to reduce pathogens and to make it easy to observe social distancing and safety protocols.
- Doors are locked for keyed-access only, and digital keys are turned on for different membership levels in phases, in order to control building capacity and eliminate public traffic
- Sanitizing stations set up at all entry points
- Self-sanitizing caddies created and distributed throughout the building for easy access
- Extra masks made and available for sale (benefits to charity) at the door
- Sterilizing UV lights installed in the HVAC system to help clean airflow of viruses
- Clear partitions added as a barrier between workspaces and highly trafficked areas
- Clockwise, one-way traffic patterns marked on the floor (per hospital protocols), with arrows spaced six feet apart to indicate proper social distancing
- In narrow spaces with two-way traffic, to preserve six-foot distancing, custom floor stickers direct people to yield to opposing traffic; domed mirrors show if anyone is coming from around corners
- Cubicles (in the Ostrom Room) have been provided with post-it flags to indicate “occupied”—thus reducing unnecessary traffic by members looking for an open workspace.
- Multi-stall bathrooms limited to single occupancy (UPDATE: Bathrooms returned to full occupancy as of July 1.)
- Bathroom faucets replaced with touchless faucets to reduce touch points
- Hand dryers disabled to eliminate air-blown pathogens
- Lids installed on toilets to prevent fecal-oral transmission
- Shower usage disallowed
- Conference room capacities reduced to ensure six feet distance
- Desks, workspaces, dining tables, and outdoor tables spaced six feet apart
- Extra chairs removed for easy compliance with new, lower room and table capacities
- Coffee and beverage service suspended to eliminate common touch point (UPDATE: Coffee is available as of July 1, prepared by staff only.)
- All shared kitchen items (utensils, plates, cups etc.) packed up and stored
- Open shelving papered over to reduce temptation to unpack common items
- Extra microwave and toaster purchased and spaced 6 feet apart to increase access while maintaining distance
- Step-to-open trash can replacing lidded cans that become common touch points
- Extra furnishings removed and stored to reduce temptation to sit in close contact or to pull chairs together
- Tight spaces that would too easily collect pathogens, such as phone call booths, have been closed (UPDATE: Phone booths open as of July 1.)
- The podcast studio has clear partitions to protect interviewees and hosts. Two UV light boxes disinfect microphones after each session. (UPDATE: Podcast studio opens as of July 1.)
- The mother’s room has been turned into a designated Symptom Assessment Room, for use in critical situations when someone starts to experience COVID-type symptoms while at The Mill
The Mill’s safety protocols apply to everyone in the building: staff, members, guests, vendors, everyone. These protocols are periodically revisited and updated.
- The Mill opens in slow phases to gradually increase the number of people inside the building, allowing time to adjust plans and protocols as needed.
- During June, we’ll be open 8:30-5:30, at 50% of capacity
- June 1, private offices & designated desks may return
- June 8, full- & part-time members
- June 15, guests
- Starting July 1, we’ll be open 24/7, at 100% of capacity
- August 1, events under 50 people will be allowed
- August 15, events over 50 people will be allowed
- Before entering the building, all members and guests must first complete a safety orientation consisting of:
- Watching an overview video from our Executive Director
- Reading our Rules of Engagement
- Reading the legal terms of returning
- Signing their agreement electronically
- Staff monitor the electronic signatures against the log of who has used their digital key to ensure all who enter have completed the orientation
- Staff required hours on site are reduced to three half days per week in June, to limit exposure; in July, staff hours are increased to three full days per week.
- Guests are required to complete orientation and sign a waiver on entry.
- Masks are required on entry and everywhere throughout The Mill (the only exception is while working at one’s desk; private offices within The Mill set their own safety standards for within the office but must wear masks outside their offices).
- Six feet distance is to be observed at all times.
- No shared food or beverages are allowed; members bring their own food, drinks, utensils, etc.
- Members are encouraged to self-monitor their temperature and to stay home if sick. The Mill has a thermometer available when needed.
- Violations of safety protocols are tracked, and those with repeated incidents will be asked, with kindness, to stay home until the protocols are lifted.
- The Mill has developed, with the help of our friends at Cook, a protocol for what to do should someone think they are developing COVID symptoms while at The Mill.
Plans and protocols mean nothing if they are not shared. While we try to make it easy to comply through physical modifications, messaging is important, too. Knowing what to expect allows our members and others who interact with The Mill to make informed decisions and builds a shared understanding. It also allows us to frame safety as something we approach with intention, positivity, and respect.
- All building improvements and protocols are communicated multiple times, via multiple formats, including:
- Social media posts
- Signage and posters throughout the building, including signage on doors before you enter
- Our motto for coronavirus is “One for all, and all for one”; safety works best with the support of our entire Mill culture. Communications share that motto and emphasize that everyone in the building must follow the protocols, for the benefit of the community as a whole. We want to everyone to feel comfortable asking for a little more distance, if needed.
- Communications respect members’ choices. If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, we understand that, and when the protocols are lifted, we will happily welcome them back to The Mill.
- Communications build the expectation that we will be monitoring safety—we don’t anyone to be surprised later, and we want members to know that we listened to their concerns (in our survey, a top concern members shared was that other people wouldn’t comply). We have to own our role as leaders of The Mill’s community. Emails tell members to expect periodic “Safety Checks!”
- Mill staff have discussed how we will handle difficult conversations about safety—it’s one thing to say we’ll monitor safety, another thing to actually do it. Our conclusion is that “Safety Check!” is something we’ll do regularly not just to correct protocol violations, but to recognize when we’re doing it right. The goal of checking safety is not to punish or lecture. It’s simply to make sure we’re doing all we can.
- Posters with “Safety Check!” and the key points are displayed throughout the building to normalize the process.