Tips to reopen your office (safely)

07/02/2020

Tips to reopen your office (safely)

As the country begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and employees start heading back into an office setting, employers need to have plans in place to ensure their employees can return safely. While the crisis has made some companies adopt more robust work-from-home policies, such as the big tech giants, office spaces are rapidly evolving for the post-coronavirus era.

As your business plans to reopen the office post Covid-19, these ideas will help keep your workers safe.

Establish new guidelines for employees

It’s essential to consider making changes to employee policies and practices. This approach will provide adequate accommodations to ensure a safer and easier transition. Be sure to communicate clearly to staff ahead of time about the changes they can expect when they come back to the office.

Staggering the employees’ return, combined with allowing remote employees to continue telecommuting, should be able to keep previous workstations unoccupied to allow for space between those in the office.

Another tactic to consider is dividing essential employees into groups and developing rotating shifts. In later phases, offices should consider alternating work-from-home days among staff to limit the number of people in the building.

A few more policy updates to think about are:

  • Encouraging regular hand washing and placing hand sanitizer in high-contact locations.
  • Restricting congregation in office spaces.
  • Avoiding the use of shared refrigerators, or empty and disinfect them daily.
  • Encouraging virtual meetings in place of in-person meetings.
  • Considering use of drop boxes for mail and deliveries.
  • Canceling or postponing events when social distancing guidelines cannot be met.
  • Employers need to collaborate with employees to create a safe workplace, help them continue to be productive at work, and to help manage their mental and emotional health as well.

Turn conference rooms into “officles”

While cubicles seem to be returning to popularity because of COVID-19, architects, building owners and entrepreneurs may remove one wall in conference rooms to help promote a healthy workplace. These spaces are known as “officles” because they are a cross between an office and a cubicle. Because these newly renovated spaces only have three walls, air can flow freely throughout the space and potentially prevent germs from gathering in one location.

Keep score publicly

Leaders should post the scores from the inspections publicly and every day. Above the score they can place a large color-coded circle to denote the organization’s level of compliance: green for a compliance of 95% and above, yellow for 80-90% and red for an overall score lower than 80%. Commit to posting the results no matter what they are and make sure they are visible to clients and customers. Embarrassment is a powerful motivator for improvement: The more public the embarrassment, the greater the motivation.

These practices may feel awkward for many employees and leaders, especially those who haven’t been part of concerted workplace safety efforts before. But these are unusual times, and if we want to keep everyone safe and healthy, people have to do things outside of their comfort zones.