The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly caused a shift in the way we live and work. It has also caused major concerns regarding the safety of employees in shared office spaces, which have the potential for the virus to spread across a company. That being said, companies need to take on increased responsibility and take certain precautions and measures to help mitigate the spread of the virus and make their office spaces as safe as possible during the pandemic. Here are some tips and advice on helping make your employees feel confident and secure working in the office.
Support your workers
These are definitely some unprecedented times that we are currently experiencing, with everyone facing new struggles and difficulties. That is why it is so important to be extra compassionate and flexible with our employees and fellow co-workers. If you are implementing work-from-home, there should be consistent communication between employees and employers. With reduced or lack of face-to-face interaction, it can be hard to keep in constant contact with each other. Therefore a deliberate effort in making phone/video calls and daily check-ins should be made.
You should also support your employees in a practical sense. Have a box of masks handy for each employee, as well as plenty of hand sanitizer available. You might also want to consider giving your employees a COVID-19 safety kit. This might include a pack of facemasks, hand sanitizer, pack of disinfectant wipes, and a leaflet on safety measures and precautions, as well as any rules that the office might have in place.
Clean, clean, and clean some more!
This is probably the most important thing you can do! Ensure you are constantly washing your hands, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk, and clean any workspace you come in contact with. Make sure to cover your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you need to cough or sneeze instead of using your hands.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly throughout the day, especially after touching any public surface or being in a communal office area, such as a shared kitchen or conference room. It should also be remembered to disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phone receivers and keypads, remotes, handles, touchscreens, desks, toilets, sinks, elevator, and elevator buttons
There should also be a thorough daily office clean, which involves properly disinfecting every surface. Employees should also be encouraged to thoroughly wipe down their own desk and work area when leaving, especially if your office practices flexible seating with no set seating plan. Employees should remember that to properly disinfect something, they should clean only one item at a time, using enough wipes to ensure the surface stays wet for 4 minutes.
Keep your distance and embrace technology
In order to stick to the social distancing guidelines, employees should always keep between 6ft or 2 meters apart at all times. This, however, can be difficult within an office setting, especially if meetings need to be conducted and desks are already set up. Therefore, face-to-face contact should be kept to an absolute minimum.
With modern technology, meetings and conferences no longer need to be in person. Companies should try and avoid unnecessary face to face contact by encouraging virtual zoom meetings.
This also means there is less need for employees to come into the office every day. Therefore companies might want to consider staggering work times implementing reduced capacity in offices. This might mean encouraging working from home, with half the workers to come in one day and the other half the next. If a company is going through with reduced capacity, companies might also want to consider creating a new office floor plan. In creating a new plan, certain desks might need to be put out of use, ensuring a sizable gap between each worker.
That way employees can have their own space without the need to share desks.
If at all possible, install touch-reducing amenities. This might be double swinging doors that can be opened with a shoulder/foot, motion sensor lights, or hands-free signing in/out machine.
This will reduce the number of surfaces that employees will have to touch. Companies should also limit the guests that come into the office to an absolute minimum. This applies to both guests who will be coming in for meetings, as well as people delivering items into the office. Discourage employees from ordering food or receiving personal packages into the office. The fewer people that come into the office, the less likely the chance of spreading the virus.
This is an area where the virus is most likely to spread between. Rather than using reusable mugs, cutlery and plates, use single-use. This will reduce the chance of the virus spreading when your employees are on their lunch and coffee breaks. Make sure to regularly wipe down and disinfect communal areas, and limit the number of people that can enter at one time so to ensure everyone can maintain social distancing.
Communication is key
Make sure all of your employees are kept up to date on all the latest updates. This might involve sending a weekly newsletter letting employees know all the latest information in regards to COVID-19 and to reinforce any rules put in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
Visible signage around the office should be put up that will raise awareness about how employees can ensure their safety. This might include information on good respiratory hygiene, cleaning recommendations, social distancing guidelines, and symptom checks, as well as information on what employees should do in the event that they start showing symptoms.
You should encourage regular COVID checks, and if anyone is unlucky enough to contract the virus, employees should know the correct procedure that they should follow. This would include the infected person and anyone who had contact to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Companies may also want to create a platform where employees can communicate and raise their concerns, and be more flexible and accommodating in regards to their personal circumstances and needs.
We understand that employees may have concerns for their safety when working from an office space, with concerns over contracting the virus. That being said, we hope that these tips and advice will help encourage employees to feel more confident about working in a shared environment again.