USG1's Safety Tips for Reopening Your Office
It is safe to say that COVID-19 has changed the world of business. Our employees depend on us as much as we depend on them. As a business owners, keeping our employees, clients, and ourselves safe is a top priority, especially during uncertain and rapidly changing times.
1. Streamline Communication
To ensure that employees and customers are aware of policy and structural changes, it is essential to streamline communication. Text messages, automated phone calls, emails, and/or social posts should be amply used to notify employees and customers of updates.
Communication should go both ways. Be receptive when employees and customers reach out, and give them the means to do so. Hear their concerns and take them seriously. We are all experiencing the pandemic, and the stresses that come with it, in different ways. Finding ways to accommodate legitimate concerns while meeting the needs of the business and clients will likely be a challenge, but it is one that must be met. Put all the changes and expectation into written policies and make certain everyone is on the same page.
2. Provide Alternatives to Public Transportation
Mass transit is notorious for being unsanitary. During this time, consider taking the following measures:
Encourage carpooling. Though your employees will be in close quarters, it is preferable to public transportation.
Deploy corporate vans or other forms of transportation where hygiene and social distancing are easier to control.
Stagger working hours to avoid rush hour for those who may have no choice but to take mass transit.
3. Implement New Policies and Procedures
The following are suggestions to keep you, your clients, and your employees safe:
Continue a work from home policy wherever possible. This is the best opportunity to limit risk of contracting the virus.
Plan a staggered reintroduction to the office.
Establish a process that brings in a rotating group of employees to work from the office every few days.
Coffee and lunch breaks can be staggered to further minimize the number of people in a room.
No entry into the building without a mask.
Mandatory temperature checks for employees. Send home anyone who has a temperature over 98.6 degrees.
Set a capacity limit for break rooms (i.e. one person per table).
Place workstations so that the chairs are at least 6 ft apart.
Equip desks with transparent plexiglass shields to stop germs from migrating.
Place clear markings on the floors that show acceptable distancing (6 ft.) from desks and other gathering areas such as lineups.
Keep any narrow spaces such as hallways to one-way traffic only. This can be marked with arrows pointing in the desired direction.
Employees need to be responsible for wiping down their own work stations and shared surfaces around them, especially in high traffic areas and after using equipment in break rooms..
Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes will need to be kept stocked for employee use, and should be placed generously across the office.
Lastly, staff are not just returning to the office, they are returning triggers of old habits. Your staff will need time and patience by everyone in the office as they learn the routines and new habits are formed. Encourage the change and make every effort not scold the mistake for a in order to gain a higher adoption rate of the new procedures.
Bonus Tip: The Human Approach
The human aspect of returning to office life requires attention as well. Ultimately, your employees are risking their health to keep your business alive. You can keep spirits high by:
Promoting employee achievements.
Encourage cross-team collaboration and create a positive vision of the future.
Treat announcements regarding the new operating environment with sensitivity.
Once restrictions ease, consider a team building event.
Overall, make sure to give plenty of thought to how you can keep your employees safe and healthy when each person returns to work. If we all do our part, it should be a smooth transition.
*This information is not intended to be the only information you use to help your employees remain safe at work. You should seek additional guidance for your particular workplace, and do not use this advice as a prescription. We also encourage you to seek legal advice on your state laws for further guidance. While we strive for accuracy, it is possible that the information in this article may contain errors or omissions. We disclaim any liability for any such errors or omissions.
Written and posted by Morgan Brennan, with contributions from Jane Bobbitt, USG1.