How to Keep Your Office COVID-Secure
December 8, 2020
COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work beyond recognition. From a work standpoint, it’s threatened the existence of many businesses and forced office workers out of their cubicles and into their lounges – with work-from-home (WFH) becoming the new norm.
However, with the economy gradually recovering, many businesses are now considering heading back to the office. This is a delicate act for HR managers and business owners. How can you plan a safe return to the workplace, as well as ensuring your office is COVID secure?
What Are The CDC Guidelines?
Before getting into our own recommendations, there are a number of CDC guidelines to follow, in order to create a safe and healthy workplace for both workers and customers.
They include building-readiness measures such as:
- Evaluating the building and its mechanical and life safety systems to determine if the building is ready for occupancy.
- Ensuring that ventilation systems in your facility operate properly. For building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that have been shut down or setback, be sure to read the safety manual before turning them back up to full capacity.
- Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors if possible, and using fans. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk for occupants.
- Modify or adjust seats, furniture, and workstations to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet between employees, where possible. Where social distancing is not an option, install transparent barriers to separate employees and visitors.
For more general tips on how to keep your workplace COVID secure, check out our 10 Step COVID-19 Return to the Workplace Safety Checklist.
Prioritize Office Hygiene
This is a given. However, one of the most important factors in keeping your office secure is hygiene – both before and after the office reopens.
The best way to kick this off is by thoroughly cleaning all surfaces with disinfectants. Moreover, don’t neglect any carpeted areas. Get a wet-dry vacuum out and really get those carpets gleaming.
When your employees return, ensure that you’ve installed antibacterial hand gel stations throughout the office, especially near doors that need to be opened manually. Moreover, guarantee that you make the following things available for all members of staff:
- Surgical masks
- Disposable gloves
- Face shields
- Hand sanitizer
Good hygiene practices and sensible mask-wearing should be ingrained into any back to work policy you put together.
Don’t Bring Everyone Back at Once
As employees slowly re-enter office spaces, one thing is certain – the days of a busy, bustling, and crowded office floor are over. While this may return in years to come, right now it’s deeply irresponsible.
A full capacity office may breach social distancing measures and contribute to a coronavirus outbreak in the workplace. Therefore, you should prioritize who needs to be in the office and which workers could continue to WFH with minimal disruption.
However, if your goal is to get everyone back into the office in some capacity, you can still make it happen. Why not consider staggering your employee base into shifts? This involves dividing your workforce into two groups. Group A works from home while group B is in the office. You can alternate this every other day or every other week. This will go a long way in helping employees stick to social distancing protocols and feel safer coming into the office.
Extra tip: If some of your workforce commute to work via public transport, it’s a good idea to move their start and finish times outside of rush hour. This helps them avoid crowded trains and buses to and from work.
Communicate as Clearly as Possible
While it may seem obvious why these health measures are in place, be sure to welcome any and all questions and concerns from employees.
A good example of this is explaining social distancing to employees. This is a practice that needs to become second nature and followed, however, some workers may not understand it’s effectiveness or purpose. Therefore, it’s essential you provide clear, concise, and calm communication on this subject and any other new protocols in the office. However, ensure that it’s all relevant to your location, industry, and current work culture.
In addition, make sure you provide signs around the office that will keep everyone mindful of the new practices, including:
- Good office hygiene
- Cleaning recommendations
- Social distancing
- Symptom checks
Employees With COVID-Like Symptoms
Any good return-to-office strategy must involve a contingency plan in place for if and when a person in the office is exhibiting COVID symptoms. For this reason, it’s essential that you set up COVID symptom screening for those entering the workplace.
This will essentially entail employee COVID symptom questionnaires. It’s possible that some employees may find this day-to-day screening irritating. Therefore, it’s important that you effectively communicate the importance of following this protocol to guarantee the safety of them and others around them.
The Bottom Line
As the economy begins to find its feet again and as lockdowns are eased, more of us will be looking to bring back a sense of normality to our professional lives. However, in order to do so, employers and HR departments need to make certain that they’re doing everything possible to ensure Covid secure offices.
Whether that’s regular symptom screening, splitting the workforce from essential to nonessential workers, or ramping up the communication and support systems for employees during this difficult time – plan a covid safety protocol relevant to your office space, industry, and culture.