As lockdown ends and restrictions lift, businesses around the world are gradually returning to the office. But it won’t be business as usual.
For many businesses and establishments, the new normal involves frequent sanitation and the use of face coverings. How might this affect your own office?
If you and your team feel ready to go back to the office, then be sure to read up on these tips and guidelines beforehand to ensure a smooth and safe transition.
Developing a Health and Safety Plan
Before undertaking any kind of action, it’s always best to devise a clear plan.
One of the first orders of business is to decide the protocol for who should go into the office and who should stay at home. Even if most of your team is ready to return, you should always take into consideration any team members, family, or friends that are at risk, especially the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. Assess the essential functions of each of your employees as well as their risks to come to a decision about whether they should come in.
You may also want to consider more flexible work hours or arrangements, such as partial remote work during the week. Giving your team an option to work from where they want or when they want can provide some comfort during uncertain times.
Whenever possible, reduce the number of in-person meetings and hold them virtually instead. Whether it’s a check-in with a supervisor or a lead with a new client, it’s just not worth the risk of contamination. Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype all offer video conferencing apps that allow you to connect from whatever device you may have.
For total preparedness, we recommend coming up with a process for any hypothetical outcome. For example, in the event someone tests positive for coronavirus, what actions will your business take? It may involve requiring everyone in the office to be tested, preventing the employee from coming into work, and following up with them regularly on their condition.
The more you plan ahead, the more you can be proactive instead of reactive. That not only keeps your team safe but everyone else in the building safe.
Next, we’ll discuss what you should keep in mind once your team is actually back in the office.
Once you’ve completed screening or evaluating employees for potential risks and have decided to move forward with a return, you must next consider the necessary steps and precautions for protecting yourself, your team, and everyone else in the office.
Number one: make sure you disinfect your entire workspace if you haven’t already done so. Place hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes in commonly touched areas (computers, machines, doors). Even as Novel Coworking has increased our sanitation staff and procedures, we highly recommend everyone stays vigilant in cleaning their own spaces.
The second most important guideline is to maintain your distance from others. By now you may have heard that the coronavirus is transmitted via droplets, which means there is a potential for it to be transferred through your clothes or by touch. Maintaining a six feet distance whenever possible limits that risk.
Novel Coworking has taken enhanced measures to protect all of our tenants and visitors. Among our new changes include:
- Making sure all common area surfaces are clean and hygienic
- Cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, and common area desks and tables with disinfectant daily. Spray Lysol Disinfectant on common area door handles and building entrances/exits
- Encouraging customers to disinfect personal office surfaces (desks and tables) and objects (telephones and keyboards) daily
- Promoting regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors, and customers
- Putting sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the center. Refill regularly
- Displaying posters promoting hand-washing (attached). Deliver posters via app communication weekly
- Making sure staff, contractors, and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water
- Promoting good respiratory hygiene
- Displaying posters promoting respiratory hygiene (attached). Deliver posters via app communication weekly
- Advising employees, contractors, and customers to stay home (or work from home) if they experience COVID-19 symptoms including low-grade fever (99 degrees F)
We also recommend that business owners should do their own part to keep office spaces clean. Schedule a block of time in your calendar to conduct a deep cleaning of the office— wiping down all hard surfaces such as electronics, tables, door handles. For soft or cloth surfaces, spray alcohol-based solution and launder the material if possible.
A few layout changes may also be necessary if your office suite has several people in it. This may involve moving desks to be spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other or installing sneeze guards depending on the nature of work (such as for a beauty salon).
We’ve discussed Novel Coworking’s response so far, but it’s also important to see the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as CDC. The CDC has issued guidelines for various businesses, schools, places of worship, restaurants as well as other worksites. Besides similar cleaning and social distancing practices, they also recommend touchless payment, avoiding sharing items such as menus, using disposable, single-serve condiments, and avoiding food and drinks brought in from the outside.
Each industry has its own unique set of considerations. To find your workplace and its related guidelines, visit the CDC’s page on businesses and workplaces here.
Finally, much consideration should be given to air filtration and airflow within any space. Not only should office spaces be properly ventilated, but also the airflow controlled to prevent lingering toxins or pollutants. Make sure your air conditioner or ventilation system has been recently cleaned or maintained to prevent any potential airborne transmission.
After several months of being forced to work remotely, many of us are ready to get back into the office and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. But we must remember to keep safety top of mind. No matter how important it is to get your business back on track, remember to always keep the health of your team, and those around you, as the utmost business priority.