How to Prepare Your Office to Go Back to Work Safely
It seems like our world changed overnight due to the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, we were all asked to work at home and only come into the office if it was essential.
As businesses slowly get the green light to reopen, you may have questions about how you can prepare your office to go back to work safely. You need to figure out things like:
- Do we need masks and gloves?
- Where can we place hand sanitizing stations?
- How can we space out our staff appropriately?
- How can we keep common spaces clean without disrupting our office routine?
- How do we get our staff on board with any new routines?
There are 3 main steps involved in preparing and keeping your office safe for people to safely work in:
- Prepare your physical office set up
- Prepare your employees
- Keep your staff accountable
Preparing Your Physical Office
Before you can think about having people in the office, you may need to change or add to your current setup. In particular, you have to think about how you can try to adhere to the Government of Canada’s physical distancing guidelines.
Here’s a list of things you’ll need to think about:
- What is your setup for staff seating? Can you rearrange it so people will have more space between them? If you cannot, can you install physical barriers between each person’s desk or cubicle?
- If you cannot rearrange the office setup or install physical barriers, you may need to consider only having select staff come in. So they can sit farther apart or provide masks if there is no way to maintain social distancing.
- What can you remove that isn’t necessary. Do you still want “high touch” items like coffee machines or water coolers? Can you keep the lunchroom open?
- Where can you store hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies so all staff can access them easily?
Once you’ve thought about all of this, do a test run with a minimal amount of staff. Try a “soft launch” to see what works and what doesn’t. This will help you determine you need to make any further changes before your staff can start coming back in. The more preparation you can do, the better.
Preparing Your Employees
Your staff is likely to feel a lot of uncertainty, so the best thing you can do is communicate with them. Clear, concise emails explaining what the company is doing and what is expected of them will help prepare them and put everyone at ease.
If you expect staff to wear or supply their own protective equipment, your staff should be informed of this as soon as possible. Consider the following when preparing your employees to return:
- Bring back your staff in waves. Start with anyone essential in the office first — anyone who functions better on site — and slowly bring back other employees. This gives you a chance to work on any issues and cuts down on contamination risks.
- Make sure all employees have easy access to any new policies and procedures.
- Plan to stagger breaks and have a way to clean common areas — such as meeting rooms — frequently. Your cleaning staff will be critical to your success.
- Ask anyone with concerns or questions to contact you before they return to the office. You don’t want to have to deal with medical exemptions or other issues on the spot when people return to the office.
Keeping Your Staff Accountable
Your staff needs to understand that they are responsible for following the rules and encouraging other staff members to follow them! Management should take the lead on this.
Here are some great ways to keep your staff accountable:
- As circumstances permit, hold “fire drills.” Ask everyone to stop what they’re doing and see if they are following all new policies (e.g. social distancing).
- Have managers or other designated staff, such as HR, do walkarounds where they check on staff and provide reminders as necessary. Be polite but firm. It will take time for people to get into new habits, but it’s essential that they do.
- Keep score! Everyone loves competition, so post numbers on how everyone is doing, and offer a prize for whichever team does the best.
We’ve talked about how you can help prepare your office to go back to work safely:
- Rearrange or upgrade your physical work environment as necessary
- Provide clear guidelines and policies to your staff before they return to the office
- Keep your staff accountable by holding “fire drills” and daily checks to ensure everyone follows the new COVID-19 protocols.
Your best way to keep your employees protected is through good planning and enforcement.
Call Oegema Nicholson at 613-703-7766 or contact us here.