Return to Office Safely: Post-Covid Office Life

Return to the office...

As more areas move onto their next phase of reopening, more offices are going to start bringing employees back to work. It can be nerve-wracking to return to the office after a pandemic, especially if you're worried about coming into contact with someone who is infected. However, returning to work doesn't have to be a stressful situation. All you need to do is take the proper precautions, from no-touch appliances to office redesign.

Use the following guide to safely return to the office after the pandemic.

Stagger The Schedule

If there's one motto that holds true when returning to work, it's “slow and steady wins the race.” There's no reason to rush everyone back to work at once, especially when you need to be mindful of your office space planning for social distancing. When you're ready to open your office to employees, you want to stagger the shifts and break times to reduce the density in the workplace. To allow your entire team to work, you can rotate who works in the office and who continues to work from home.

Be Mindful of Common Areas

Your meeting rooms, break rooms and cafeteria are all examples of common areas.They are spaces in your office that are used by everyone on your team. It's going to be difficult to practice social distancing if the common areas are crowded. This is why you need to go the extra mile to keep everyone 6 feet apart when using a common area. You can use visual aids such as painters tape and decals to show everyone where they must stand or sit as they practice social distancing.

Work and Collaborate Safely

Before the pandemic, many workplaces featured an open office layout, which maybe the case for your own business. However, many businesses are now changing their office floor plans to create a safe place for their employees. Longer tables that once encouraged teamwork are being replaced by desks with cubicles at 6 feet apart. Collaborations are done at a safe distance and while wearing face masks, or you can rely on email, instant messenger or a shared cloud to collaborate with your team. Remember, changing your layout and operation keeps everyone safe today, so you can get back to your previous method of collaboration tomorrow.

Prevent Bacteria From Spreading

Depending on where your office is located, it may be required to wear face masks inside all establishments. Otherwise, you can still ask your employees to wear face masks as they work. If wearing a mask while working is optional but difficult, make sure they at least wear the masks while collaborating and visiting common areas. Wearing a face mask prevents bacteria from spreading from person to person as they are talking or eating. It's also important to remind everyone to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer as needed.

Always Keep Your Office Clean

It's absolutely essential to keep your office clean as much as possible, especially the high-traffic areas such as workstations, meeting rooms and break rooms. You may even decide to close off a few areas as part of your office space planning, as this makes it easier to keep your office clean. The high-traffic areas should be cleaned and sanitized first, and then you can focus on the closed-off areas. Everyone should do their part to clean their workstation at the end of their shift, especially if your employees are rotating a workstation per shift. You also want to wipe down frequently used items such as your computer, phone, desk and chair. Use store-bought or homemade disinfectant products to keep your office clean and sanitized.

Replace Frequently Used Items

While you can wipe down frequently used items, you may be able to replace some items with no-touch options as part of your office redesign. For example, your bathroom may still feature manual fixtures, but you can replace them with motion sensor faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers. In your cafeteria, close off the vending and beverage machines that are touched by multiple people. You may want to remove the coffee or tea maker from the cafeteria as well. Instead, you can create a quick grab-and-go option with pre-packaged food and single-serve beverages. Handles on necessary appliances, such as the microwave and refrigerator, should be wiped down after each use. You can even look into motion sensor lights for your office instead of relying on lamps and light switches. This way, you're keeping bacteria from spreading throughout your office.

Look Into On-Site Screening

It's always a good idea to look into on-site screening for your business, which consists of taking one's temperature and checking for symptoms of theCoronavirus. Of course, you do need to follow the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines to safely screen your employees. The guidelines include rotating groups waiting to be screened while keeping everyone 6 feet apart. If anyone is showing symptoms, they need to be sent home to isolate and contact their healthcare provider.They cannot return to work until they are cleared by their physician, which may take at least two weeks depending on the severity of their symptoms. Your employees need to know if anyone tests positive so that they can talk to their own healthcare provider. Your office is also going to need a deep cleaning and disinfection to protect your team.

If you take all the necessary precautions, follow the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines and look into office space planning, you can safely return to the office after the pandemic.

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