As many are preparing to return to our office and workspaces, we are finding that it is far more complicated than unlocking the door and turning on the lights. Employers will need to carefully consider quite a few details before they can safely open their offices. Likely, COVID-19 has impacted your workspaces, conference rooms, equipment, and common areas. At this point, you have an obligation to your team to make all areas as safe as possible.
The physical and mental health of your team should be at the top of your list. In addition to physically cleaning and possibly altering your space, you should have a communication plan in place to mitigate the fear and anxiety about being together again. Consider these tips:
Day One Experience (SAMPLE)
- Welcome messaging upon arrival
- Taking care of employees is the top priority
- Shared responsibility for the health of our employees
- Any specific building changes/practices noted in a quick reference tool
- Hand sanitizer at entrances
- Temperature checks? May need to determine common location.
- Provide space and time for employees to discuss this experience
- Be open to employee suggestions and feedback
- Communicate frequently each week; provide updates; reward employees for response, etc.
Workplace Changes and Employee Expectations for Cleanliness and Use
- Clean surfaces; ensure proper cleaning products are on hand and available to use freely for high-traffic, high-touch work surfaces
- Require employees to wipe down their work surfaces prior to leaving for the day
- Create barriers between workstations and shared desk locations wherever possible
- Increase circulation. Open windows if possible or adjust HVAC systems to increase airflow and circulation
- Encourage/require employees to wear masks when outside their personal office; or if they share a workspace (consider whether you can provide masks to employees)
- Be open to rearranging workstations and setups
- One way directional flow through office corridors
Kitchens and Convenience Centers
- Consider limiting shared refrigerators; microwaves; coffee makers, etc.,
- Encourage employees to bring food and beverages from home and limit kitchen use
- Eliminate shared use of utensils, plates, coffee mugs and exchange for disposable if absolutely necessary
- Limit meeting attendees to every third seat available in a meeting room;
- Consider when/how often employees should wear a mask when engaging with others;
- If off site travel to client sites are required, employees should be required to wear masks, not shake hands, and ensure proper social distancing
Using an employee committee to create the plan will be a great way to gain perspectives and buy-in. The committee should include both non-managers and managers; share the plan with employees at least a week prior to returning to the office. Ask for and be open to feedback.
As your office prepares to reopen, if you find yourself without guidance, please ask. These are unprecedented times, and you may find yourself in new situations without all the answers. Our team is well-versed in this area, and we are eager to help. Please reach out and ask for help as you get your team back together.
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