As the world is figuring out ways to continue forward while enforcing new safety regulations for COVID-19, we can see that the workplace we are so accustomed to is evolving.  For example, many companies have been forced to allow employees to work from home.  In some ways, this has been enlightening, as many businesses have learned how much work can be accomplished remotely.  However, in most cases it seems, it has hindered businesses, and employers are ready to have their employees return to the office, even if it is not in the same capacity.

            In light of the growing access to vaccines, and the hopes that businesses can return to employee filled (or partially filled) offices soon, we want to help businesses prepare.  The way in which we work and interact with colleagues will be different, and there are safety guidelines to follow, but we will have new ways to remain productive.  Here are the answers to 7 COVID-19 questions you may have before your employees return to the workplace.

1. How can I prepare my office space, for the re-entry of employees and visitors?

For employee’s and visitor’s safety, space planning is your friend now more than ever!  Aim to divert office traffic patterns to “one-way” routes where possible; one way in, one way out, or one-ways through and around workspaces.   Rotate workstations away from one another, install hand sanitizer stations prominently throughout the office, and ensure the best practices and new policies are communicated thoroughly with all staff.  Create a culture of caring; “We are doing this to keep each other and our families safe.”

2. How can I encourage collaboration, but maintain social distance in my office?

Not all businesses have the luxury of spreading out workstations enough to ensure that there are 6 feet of clearance between employees.  As many people may have noticed in restaurants or grocery stores, acrylic partitions are an excellent alternative.  They allowa people to come closer together while knowing there is a literal barrier to protect them from spreading germs.  In addition, due to their transparency, they do not take away from the openness and lightness that so many offices have.  This means employees can still easily interact with one another, encouraging collaborative efforts.

Then of course, there is the popular solution of online work environments.  Thanks to companies like Slack, businesses have been able to create an entire workplace online for employees to keep in touch and interact with one another in real time, or “face to face” with video calling.  This means that employees can still feel connected even if they are across the office from one another.

Ensuring social distance in an office that was not designed for it can pose a challenge for many businesses, especially in workplaces that are already spatially limited.  When a fully, or even partially remote staff isn’t the best option for your business, a re-design with professional help is likely your best solution.

3. What about common surfaces? How do I limit the spread of bacteria among them?

Common surfaces which employees and visitors touch often, are also known as “high touch” surfaces.  In an article, recently updated due to new COVID-19 precautions, you can read more about what exactly qualifies as a high touch surface, and how to disinfect them.  Gloves have become a popular solution for keeping individuals free of touching germs on high touch areas.  However, if the wearer does not change their gloves in-between touching multiple surfaces, cross-contamination occurs.  Therefore keeping the surfaces themselves clean or untouched is still an issue.

So how can businesses address these issues within their offices?  Start by identifying high touch surfaces that are not “essential” to employees.  For example, shared office tablets may have to be eliminated for the time being, or only be assigned to one individual per day, so they may be thoroughly cleaned between users.  Maybe the keyboard and mouse in a conference room are removed, and employees are asked to use their personal computers instead.

Then there are the inevitable high touch surfaces, like elevator buttons.  One option is to limit elevator capacity, which aides social distancing as well, and encourages taking the stairs! 

However, we cannot completely eliminate some surfaces from being touched.  So for elevator buttons, light switches, and the ever feared door handle, many companies have come up with antibacterial skins, and antibacterial door handle covers!  They are a great option for lessening bacteria on high touch surfaces.

4. What is the best way to keep fabrics clean and germ free?

Porous, woven fabrics are likely all around the office; workstation dividers, mesh office chairs, wall coverings, reception and lounge furniture, even mouse pads!  There are certain ways to clean and sanitize certain fabrics.  Learn to clean commercial fabrics, and determine which fabrics may be safely bleached.

The best option though, is to hire trusted professionals who specialize in cleaning textiles.  This way you can be sure you will get quality, effective cleaning, without any damage to the textiles in your office.

5. How will we ensure our receptionists, and all front office employees, remain safe with multiple visitors and employees entering the environment?

Make sure your front office staff is informed on how to safely interact with all those who enter the office.  Require reception staff to take the temperatures of employees and visitors before they may enter or remain in the office.  Post clear signage to guests and employees that they are not permitted to enter the workplace if they have even the slightest symptoms of illness.

6. What additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures can be implemented to reduce the overall viral count?

Always revert back to the latest guidelines put out by the CDC for workplaces and businesses.  In addition to high touch surfaces and fabrics, look into other surfaces that may need to be disinfected, and more importantly, learn how often they need to be disinfected!

Finally, one of the most important things you can do for the health and safety of those in the building, is to install a quality air purification system.  Doing so will significantly decrease the number of airborne germs in the workplace.

7. Is it sustainable for some employees to continue working from home?

If possible, this is a valuable solution for minimizing human contact in the workplace.  Assess business models to determine which employees must physically be in the office to carry out their duties.  Many have found themselves to be more productive at home over the past year, so businesses may even find some employees happily volunteering for this. Businesses could also develop a rotation system for working remotely, and those who need to meet with one another, or access office resources to come into the office.

Elevate your business by contacting Design Your Monday! LLC, to help you design a safe, productive, and attractive workplace for your returning employees. Get started today!