Although many restrictions have been lifted and businesses around the world have returned to the office, it’s not business as usual.
For many businesses and establishments, the new normal involves aggressive sanitation, social distancing, and face coverings. No matter what size of team or workspace solution you use, how might this affect your own office?
If you and your team have gone back to the office or will be soon, then be sure to read up on these tips and guidelines beforehand to ensure a smooth and safe transition.
Before undertaking any kind of action, it’s always best to articulate and communicate a clear plan.
One of the first orders of business is to decide the protocol for who should go into the office and who should stay at home. Even if most of your team is ready to return, you should always take into consideration any team members, family, or friends that are at risk, especially older folks, people with underlying medical conditions, or those living with these people in these groups. Assess the essential functions of each of your employees as well as their risks to come to a decision about whether they should come in.
You may also want to consider more flexible work hours or arrangements, such as partial remote work during the week. Giving your team an option to work from where they want or when they want can provide some comfort during uncertain times.
Whenever possible, reduce the number of in-person meetings and hold them virtually instead. Whether it’s a check-in with a supervisor or a lead with a new client, it’s just not worth the risk of contamination. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Webex, and Skype all offer video conferencing apps that allow you to connect from whatever device you may have. Even Discord can offer a great way to stay together, and many employees may already be active on it.
Define your protocol ahead of time for how to handle key situations. What should your team do in the case of a Covid exposure? How will you process incoming and outgoing shipments? What next steps should be taken when team members test positive? Does a quarantine mean they need to take PTO? What kind of tests should they take before being cleared to come back to the office – does it have to be a PCR test or will the rapid test suffice? Get ahead of all the questions by ensuring your team knows who to notify and what actions to take should Covid – or any other illness for that matter – come calling.
The more you plan ahead, the more proactive rather than reactive you can be. That not only keeps your team safe but everyone around them too.
Once you’ve completed screening or evaluating employees for potential risks and have decided to move forward, you must next consider the necessary steps and precautions for protecting yourself, your team, and everyone else in the office.
First off, disinfect your workspace if you haven’t already done so, and set an expectation for the frequency of ongoing cleaning. Place hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes in commonly touched areas (computers, machines, doors). Even as Expansive has increased our sanitation staff and procedures, we highly recommend everyone stays vigilant in cleaning their own spaces.
Second, establish guidelines to maintain safe distances within your workskpace. By now we know the coronavirus can spread through airborne transmission. Maintaining a six feet distance whenever possible limits the risk of infection, as does masking and physical barriers like plexiglass shields.
Depending on your specific business and office situation, you may want or need to take additional health and safety measures like adding air purifiers, limiting visitors or service people into your space, or employing periodic testing or contact tracing. Every team’s solution will likely look a bit different.
Expansive has taken enhanced measures to protect all of our tenants and visitors. Among our new changes include:
We also recommend that business owners should do their own part to keep office spaces clean. Schedule a block of time in your calendar to conduct a deep cleaning of the office— wiping down all hard surfaces such as electronics, tables, door handles. For soft or cloth surfaces, spray alcohol-based solution and launder the material if possible.
A few layout changes may also be necessary if your office suite has several people in it. This may involve moving desks to be spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other or installing sneeze guards depending on the nature of work (such as for a beauty salon).
We’ve discussed Expansive’s response so far, but it’s also important to see the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as CDC. The CDC has issued guidelines for various businesses, schools, places of worship, restaurants as well as other worksites. Besides similar cleaning and social distancing practices, they also recommend touchless payment, avoiding sharing items such as menus, using disposable, single-serve condiments, and avoiding food and drinks brought in from the outside.
Finally, much consideration should be given to air filtration and airflow within any space. Not only should office spaces be properly ventilated, but also the airflow controlled to prevent lingering toxins or pollutants. Make sure your air conditioner or ventilation system has been recently cleaned or maintained to prevent any potential airborne transmission.
After several months of being forced to work remotely, many of us are ready to get back into the office and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. But we must remember to keep safety top of mind. No matter how important it is to get your business back on track, remember to always keep the health of your team, and those around you, as the utmost business priority.