The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but much of the country is learning how to proceed with life while remaining cautious of getting and spreading the disease. This means many workplaces that shut down in March 2020 are slowly reopening their offices. If you’re like many of them, you’re allowing your employees to continue working from home if that’s where they feel most comfortable, but you’re also giving them the option to return full- or part-time.
And if your employees are like many others out there, they’re thankful for this solution. Working at home is popular, but it’s not for all of us. Not everyone has a quiet home that is free from distractions, like kids and roommates, and that allows them to work productively. And not everyone has access to the right technology. If you’re reopening, even for a day or two a week, these tips will help you keep your employees and your community safe and healthy.
Educate Your Employees
Before you allow your employees back into the office, the CDC recommends educating your workforce on what they can do to protect themselves and others while they’re in the building. Topics should include:
- Signs and symptoms of COVID-19
- When a person should stay home (they have a fever, don’t feel well or they’ve received a positive COVID-19 test)
- How to practice social distancing and remain six feet apart in the office
- Ways to avoid the virus outside of work
- Encouragement of hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and wearing of masks or proper facial coverings
The CDC also offers posters that you can download and place in areas around your workspace. This will help prevent your employees from falling back into old habits.
The Harvard Business Review suggests holding daily drills for your employees during the first week or two. This means picking a random time throughout the day and asking them to stop everything in order to practice any new safety rules that are put into place. Alternatively, you or a supervisor can make unannounced trips around the workplace to see if safety rules are being implemented.
Develop a Screening Plan
One of the best ways of preventing COVID-19 from spreading through your office is to prevent a person who has the virus from entering in the first place. Many businesses have implemented the CDC’s suggestion of taking daily temperatures. Invest in a no-touch forehead thermometer and have someone greet employees and clients at the door for a screening. If someone has a fever, is coughing or they just don’t feel well, send them home before they come inside. Finally, make sure you do have a plan in place for what to do if one of your employees comes into the office and unknowingly has the virus.
Maintain Communication and Flexibility
It’s important to remind your employees that even though they’re returning to the office, this is not business as usual. Old ways of doing things are paused or reconfigured for now and maybe for a long time. Discuss the virus and your plans for keeping them safe frequently, and always be available to answer their questions. Let them know their health is a top priority by doing things like providing hand sanitizer to everyone or allowing those employees who aren’t comfortable returning to work the option to continue working from home for now. While some people are fully ready, others may not be. Perhaps they have an underlying health condition or live with people who do. Flexibility on your part and theirs is key.
Develop a Cleaning Plan
Keeping a clean environment for your employees is a must. If you rent your space, talk to your landlord about whose responsibility it is to disinfect the workspace after hours if you have any questions. Otherwise, follow the CDC’s guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting in public spaces. High-touch areas should be cleaned regularly with EPA-approved disinfectant. This includes places like doorknobs, light switches, telephones, toilet handles, faucets, and handrails. Put one or more people in charge of making daily rounds to wipe down surfaces, and provide them with any equipment they may need, such as gloves, masks, and clothing protectors. Encourage all employees to keep their workspaces sanitary.
Identify High-Risk Areas
Even though you are reopening, there are certain areas in your office space that may need to remain off-limits, like breakrooms, conference rooms, and collaboration spaces. These areas are considered high-risk. Close them down for now, or if you have closed off multiple rooms, allow employees to use them as private offices for further protection. You can also encourage alternatives like having lunch outdoors, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or continuing to have meetings virtually.
Rearrange Your Space
Even if you close your high-risk areas, you may find that you need to rearrange your actual workspace to encourage social distancing. You can add plexiglass barriers, spread desks so they’re at least six feet apart, and remove or reduce the number of chairs in reception and lounging areas. And you can take advantage of CORT Furniture as Service™ plan.
With so much still unknown about the virus and the future of the workplace, Furniture as a Service helps you reopen while remaining flexible, so that you can adapt to your workforce’s changing needs. We have the rental furniture in stock to help meet your company’s goals, even as they change with the pandemic and beyond as you return to a more permanent position. It’s fast, flexible, smart, and cost-effective for most businesses. We’re ready to get to work for you today.