How to safely return to offices after COVID-19

How to prepare an office for employees’ return?

On the EU-OSHA (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work) website, you can find a document with recommendations. It is full of information regarding workspaces organization and ensuring security measures. The similar document can be found on the White House’s website.

Safety recommendations — how to follow them?

The most important recommendations of the White House include:

  • developing and implementing appropriate policies about social distancing — maintaining a 1.5 m (4ft) gap between jobs or separating jobs using separators,
  • providing protective equipment, temperature checks, and sanitation — providing face masks, visors, gloves, disinfectant fluids and temperature measuring stations,
  • minimize non-essential travels — conducting meetings through videoconferences, canceling delegations and company trips,
  • using common and high-traffic areas — limiting the number of people on a given surface, excluding certain rooms from use,
  • monitoring workforce for indicative symptoms — not allowing people with disease symptoms to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider,
  • developing and implementing policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing the following employee COVID + test — for example through attendance management tools.

First steps

The recommendations are quite general in nature, so each company can approach them differently. The first thing to do is to write down everything that should be changed. Companies have to determine how many employees will need to be returned and how many can still be working remotely.

Preparation of the office space

The first step is to separate workstations at a safe distance of 1.5 m (4ft). You can also separate seats with screens. Conference spaces should be used only if necessary. When preparing the office, remember about personal protective equipment and safety posters reminding about exercise caution.

What is next?

You have to inform people about the changes in advance so they can properly prepare. You also need to monitor the employees’ behavior since returning to the office to ensure that they follow the regulations. In the case of breaking the rules, you need to find out the reason and eliminate it by implementing necessary changes.

Useful ideas

The first weeks after returning to the office will certainly not be easy. Employees will have to get used to new standards and different behavior of their colleagues. Sometimes there may be misunderstandings. Here are a few useful ideas to help your subordinates find their way in the new reality.

  • Organizing a meeting about new regulations where employees can ensure their safety and dispel doubts is a great idea especially for bigger organizations where changes have a large impact on their everyday work-life. It is a good way to provide knowledge on how to react in various situations. It will also give your employees a sense of security that will positively affect their productivity.
  • Wearing silicone bands in different colors, through which people inform others about their attitude towards the distance is a simple idea to help employees in everyday communication. Red is for people who do not want to make physical contact, yellow for those who avoid touching but are willing to talk, and green bands mean that a person is willing to both talk and make physical contact. Using such a code will avoid awkwardness, for example when shaking hands when greeting.
  • Another useful solution is to create a Pandemic Idea Box. It can be placed in the office or it can be an online survey. The idea is to create a place where employees can submit their ideas for changes in the office to better maintain safety and improve workflow. Anonymity will increase the chance of getting honest answers.

Summary

Employees feel safer when they are informed about their situation, so it is worth developing a thought-on action plan and an effective way of communication about work rules changing. You can prepare a special newsletter about the latest information on security principles, current activities of the company, and changes regarding the virus. Using time-off managers for attendance managing is also a great solution to help your employees be safe and always up to date.

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Calamari

Calamari

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