COVID-19 Safety: How to Reopen the Office

COVID-19 Safety: How to Reopen the Office

Reopening the workplace may be the top priority on your mind right now. Business owners nationwide are trying to figure out how to get remote workers back in the office and back to business without compromising safety. And there’s a new normal every business owner can expect moving forward.

Even if you plan to allow some hybrid variation of remote working options to your staff, you will still need to ensure the physical workspace is safe when employees report for duty onsite. Here are a few tips to reopen your office with safety and wellness in mind.

Know & Abide By Your Regional Guidelines

Regardless of what you do for your personal health and wellness, or that of your own family, how you embark on reopening the office means following the CDC guidelines. Additionally, each state may have different mitigation requirements for different business segments. Making sure you know and understand the parameters will help you carve out the safest ‘return to work’ policy for your teams.

State & Regional Mandates

Be mindful of your state or region’s requirements for capacity. Some businesses, like movie theatres and restaurants, are allowed to open with patron capacity limits. Depending on the headcount and size of your office or workplace, you too might have to be selective about the number of employees you allow back onsite right now. Those office spaces that operate as a stand alone brick-and-mortar may have different safety benchmarks than office spaces where businesses share suites, as well.

Masks or No Masks

Be aware of your state’s requirements for masks. While the general public can be fickle about masking up, as a business looking to bring employees back into a workspace together, your rules may need to be stricter. Whatever your mask policy is, be sure to outline the specific requirements for your employees before then come back to the office.

OSHA Guidelines

Don’t forget to verify any new OSHA guidelines for the workplace as well. There might be social distancing requirements for employees that, in turn, may require rearranging the office layout. Moving desks and re-establishing common areas might be in order to maintain property social distancing measures.

Clean, Clean, Clean

You may have formerly had a policy in place for cleaning and sanitizing the office space. But for a safe reopening of the workplace today, cleaning has new meaning. And every surface or touch point will need to be addressed.

Offer Sanitizers & Wipes

Consider providing staff with personal caches of sanitizers and disinfecting wipes. While you focus on safe cleaning practices overall, you can delegate the cleaning of personal spaces to personnel. It will also encourage staff to be mindful of surfaces they touch throughout the workday.

Hire a Cleaning Service

Before the pandemic, you might have already worked with a professional cleaning service. Today’s work environments will require a new level of routine cleaning to be safe. If you haven’t worked with a service before, now would be a good time to pursue your options. And for any organizations or individuals you worked with before for office cleaning, now is a good time to have another conversation about what gets cleaned and sanitized for safety.

New Water Cooler & Coffee Pot Rules

Your office cleaning policy isn’t going to be the only thing that changes. You’ll likely have to redefine new rules of engagement for common areas for employees. Water coolers, for example, might not be a safe way to provide water for your staff. Sharing a coffee pot with co-workers might not be the safest way to get that morning caffeine either. Consider exploring your options to provide bottled water or individually packaged options for vending snacks and beverages instead.

Updating Employee Handbooks & Policies

While you redefine the new normal for your workplace, you’ll want to document those steps and best practices. To reopen your office, you’ll want to make sure all of your employees know what steps you’re taking as well as what will be expected of them in maintaining a safe environment. Policy and procedural handbooks will need to be updated accordingly as you roll out new guidelines.

New Rules for Reporting to Work

Based on any capacity limits you might be facing, you will likely need to outline a new plan for who comes to work. Some companies have internal positions that can work remotely. Your business might need a blended schedule of remote and onsite duty staff, rotating for fairness. Regardless of the method that ends up working best for your company, ironing out those details before you reopen the office is key.

New Rules for Staying Home

As part of your employee handbook of rules for safety, you’ll need to be open about your policies for team members who need to stay home. Human Resources can help outline the guide. If anyone is feeling ill, nauseous, running a fever, or exhibiting even the mildest of symptoms, he or she should stay home. You can include possible remote working options as part of these steps, as well. But be sure to include your company policy for using sick time, personal, or vacation days.

COVID-19 Testing & Quarantining Policies

Workplace safety means having clear and precise policies in place about any testing requirements and quarantine steps. Your company may not have a need for routine COVID-19 testing. But if you do, you’ll want to outline those requirements for your teams. You can also incorporate a temperature screening for everyone entering if it’s more efficient for you. Be transparent about any policies you put in place for quarantining, as well. Define what constitutes contact with an infected individual and how many days away are mandated. You’ll want to outline remote working options for these quarantine times, too.

When you’re ready to reopen the office, you’ll want to be sure you’re welcoming your staff back to a safe environment. As you explore your workplace safety options, don’t forget to include W3ll as a partner for any HRA plans you have in place, as well.

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