Returning to Work, Office Readiness

Covid-19 has significantly changed the face of health and safety in workplaces throughout the world and while the virus may be around for some time to come, the fact remains that the economy cannot be paused indefinitely. As organizations start reopening their doors in-line with the government’s risk adjusted strategy, here are 6 steps for a company to follow as staff start returning to the workplace.

6 Steps for Re-opening the Workplace

1. Prepare the building

Before people return to a building that has been vacant for a significant period of time, a variety of pre-return checks, tasks and assessments need to be carried out to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting the entire office and all work surfaces is crucial. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads. Companies will need to supply essential PPE supplies for staff, like facial masks, thermometers, sanitising products, and other items that need to be procured prior to opening.

2. Keep your distance

Risk of infection is heightened when people gather in large numbers. Alternating work schedules is a good method to consider in limiting staff density within the office when returning to work. Establish who will be key and need to return to the office first; determine effective rotational schedules for the workforce based on specific business functions; and what the expectations are for people working remotely from home.

3. Control Access

This is a crucial step in the process to mitigate risk and proactively manage access to and from the building. Firm protocols for staff including an attendance register and health checks upon arrival is recommended by the WHO which include body temperature scanning. Make sure that Staff, Contractors and Customers have access to sanitising products if soap and running water is not available in the immediate vicinity.

4. Social distancing plan

Social distancing plan for returning to work

Develop guidelines to decrease human density in common use areas. One should consider traffic flow and maximum quantities of staff allowed in shared spaces like elevators, bathrooms, kitchens, cafeterias and meeting rooms. Rethinking the office layout is a crucial element to consider, not only for returning to work, but also to future proof the office environment in applying social distancing guidelines. Consider moving desks further apart in an open office environment or rethinking the space plan entirely, to make effective use of the available floor space. If space does not allow, installing clear screens between employees adds another layer of safety between employees without impacting productivity.Some considerations for rethinking physical workplaces have been summarized by Forrester research.

5. Reduce touch points and increase cleaning

A clean desk policy is a good way to allow easy cleaning of surfaces and common areas on a regular basis. Touchless hand sanitizing stations are recommended. The WHO advises regular and thorough hand washing by Employees, Contractors and Customers. Make sure dispensers are regularly refilled and cleaned.

6. Connect for confidence

Communication to staff on what policies are in place should someone present with flu-like symptoms at the office is key. Display information in prominent areas to create more awareness and remind people to maintain the recommended 1.5m social distance. People are understandably very anxious as they return to the office and are expected to adapt to a new way of living and working. Open and frequent communication can go a long way to acknowledge and address the very real fears and concerns employees have during this time.

In response to the unprecedented circumstances that Covid 19 has created, we have stepped outside of their product offering in order to help. We’ve leveraged our international supplier network to procure essential services products that are in short supply in South Africa. 

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