If you are preparing your employees for a return to work in your physical office, it won’t be business as usual and doing so will call for plenty of changes. Things in general will not be going 'back to normal' at any time soon, but a 'new normal' is being established.
It's likely that your policies for your office will adjust and evolve as time passes, but for now they will need to be rather stringent.
When modifying your workplace for reopening the office, you will need to consider a number of procedures – perhaps more than you had bargained for – related to every part of the company, including in-person meetings, common areas, and general hygiene practices.
Here's a look at just some considerations to keep in mind, some of which you may have already planned for, others you may not have done.
Ideally, in-person meetings should be kept to a minimum and you should continue those Zoom get togethers for the near future. If in-person meetings are required, you should configure the space, so those present are at a minimum of six feet apart to limit contact.
Overall, you want to limit the occupancy in your building. All situations will be different, depending on your staff size and how your building is set up, so it might require some creativity to keep everyone safe.
You can consider various ways to reduce the building occupancy, such as rotating employee schedules, so everyone isn’t in the building at the same time. With this plan in place, those who are not in the office can continue teleworking from home.
For those in the building, you should promote social distancing and limiting in-person contact.
You will need to reconsider the use of common areas in the building. You want to either close them or reconfigure these spaces to promote social distancing. Areas to consider include break rooms, elevators, meeting rooms, and any shared workspaces.
You can reconfigure furniture to create distance or incorporate space markers on the floor to help generate distance.
If shared workspaces can’t be kept six feet apart, place vertical separators between spaces that are tall enough to protect those working in the area.
The number of people in elevators at any given time should be significantly reduced. You can do this by encouraging people to take the stairs, placing a limit on the number of people in the elevator, and requiring those in the elevator with others to wear face masks.
Proper hygiene should be promoted more than usual through hand washing, using hand sanitizer, and ensuring that the building and items within the building are sanitized regularly.
Have soap and running water available for regular handwashing. Also, have physical reminders posted around the building to encourage handwashing. While handwashing is best, you should also have hand sanitizer readily available as an alternative if needed.
The building should also be sanitized regularly by the cleaning staff, paying particular attention to high touch areas such as doorknobs, light switches, and buttons on equipment throughout the office.
You want to have ample cleaning supplies available, so you’re ready to keep the building clean. You might want to also consider having cleaning supplies available for staff use who want to sanitize their personal work spaces throughout the day.
Establish procedures to help with hygiene, such as reducing shared materials and equipment and disinfecting items every time they are shared to reduce the potential spread of the virus.
Any way you can improve the ventilation in the building is beneficial, so if you can open windows and doors or install additional air purification equipment, you should consider doing so.
To promote safer practices, everyone should receive the proper training on these new protocols.
There should be clear expectations outlined related to social distancing, hand washing, face covering, self-screening for symptoms, what to do if they’re ill, what to do if they’re diagnosed with COVID-19, and more. Also, have a transparent process in place for those who have questions about the policies and procedures so everyone is on the same page.
As has been the case in the wider world, it is likely that you, as a company, may be met with some resistance to the new changes, or at least an indifference to maintaining the policies put in place.
In anticipation of this, guidelines should be in place from the start as to what the workplace consequences will be of failures to adhere to the new policies and employees should be made aware of them, in writing, prior to their return to the office.