After stay-at-home orders have been lifted, business owners, supervisors, HR personnel, and employees have one thing on their minds: a safe return to the office. It’s likely that businesses will need to implement new ways to operate in order to keep their workforce safe. To ensure a safe return, creating an office environment that feels safe and is properly cleaned is imperative, but also, business owners and supervisors should also be thinking about the mental health needs of their employees.
Maintaining health and business success is a challenge given the circumstances, so let’s take a look at some of the key tips on how to encourage a safe return.
Review Risk Assessments and Minimize Risks
When considering who will return to work, take into account vulnerable or at-risk staff, employees with kids or other care responsibilities for people, and also travel arrangements like necessary use of public transportation. Review services that may pose a health issue and come up with ways to minimize the risk. Spikes in the outbreak are expected, so prepare well by creating a protocol to respond in case you need to send your team members home again. This way, you’ll be able to respond quickly and efficiently, without disrupting your operations.
Up Your Hygiene Procedures
Before returning to the workplace, prepare your office for occupancy by carrying out a deep-cleaning program. Also, establish a daily cleaning schedule and train your team on how to maintain proper hygiene. Health and safety posters around the office are a great reminder of how to protect yourself from the virus and hand sanitizers should be kept around the office.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment
Proper protective gear is a must no matter the industry you operate in. PPE refers to items like gloves, masks, and eye protection that are a vital part of workplace safety during the pandemic. In efforts to reduce exposure to the virus, handing out a surgical mask to every employee is an efficient way to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions from spreading. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines, providing mechanical methods like physical barriers, or better air filtration to separate an employee from a workplace danger is required. For instance, installing sneeze guards is recommended for employees that fall under medium exposure risk, meaning they could come into close contact with a person who is infected with coronavirus.
Establish Workspace Distancing Protocols
To ensure proper physical distancing is maintained between employees, reorganize the office layout accordingly. Avoiding handshakes, hugs, and other forms of physical contact may be difficult at first, but like any other habit, they need some time to be fully adopted. To maintain safety at the workplace, remind your employees to stay mindful of their actions. They should avoid touching surfaces like door handles, a colleague’s laptop, or other frequently used surfaces when possible. Physical distancing floor stickers are a smart way to encourage your employees to keep a safe distance from one another.
Another thing that you can do to make it easier on your employees is remodel your bathroom as it’s the place where they might experience the most indirect contact. Definitely install sensor-activated taps and paper dispensers, and also think about installing bathroom partitions. Toilet partition height, width, and depth vary, there are floor-to-ceiling partitions that provide full privacy, and standard ones that are around 58 inches. Of course, these can be custom-made if your restrooms have unique dimensions.
Safe Commuting to Work
According to the CDC, the safest way to travel is solo commuting (if feasible), whether that includes biking, walking, or driving your vehicle. Employers are encouraged to offer their workers incentives to stimulate them to avoid public transportation since it increases the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Encourage your staff to wash their hands properly or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before and after each trip. Also, remind them not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with their hands. Another essential safety precaution you should promote to your employees is wearing a face covering and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet between themselves and other passengers, when possible.
Provide Access to Mental Health Support
The outbreak of coronavirus has affected people around the globe, so feeling stressed and under pressure is a likely experience for many of your employees. And in the current situation, feeling worried and overwhelmed is quite normal. At times like these, taking care of mental health is as essential as managing physical health, so providing ongoing emotional support to your staff is an invaluable step. Many of them will feel the impact of the global crisis, which can take a toll on their overall wellbeing. Inform your staff of how and where they can access mental health and psychosocial support services.
These are a few ways to offer your employees a safe return to the office. By doing these things, your employees will feel cared for and appreciated.