This guide will completely assist you to safely reopen your office so your employees feel safe & confident enough to return back to work. In their minds, it’s not just their health that’s at stake, but the health of their members of the family too. Risking a potential outbreak at the office isn’t an option.

Here’s how exactly to safely reopen the office after the coronavirus pandemic: 

Part One: Planning Ahead

Before we get to the workplace itself, here are some tasks you’ll need to keep in mind first.

  1. Confirm if you can legally reopen

Be sure to check local guidelines on reopening the office during this pandemic situation, to determine if you’ll be able to reopen, or you’ll need a special permit. Always check with the local healthcare authorities if you’re unsure. Ask your landlord about other offices which may be reopening in your building and how exactly they’re doing it. This will further also give you a basic idea of how crowded the area may be. Finally, check with all the stakeholders in your organization to verify that they’re onboard with a reopening.

  1. Create office shift policies

You’ll have to come up with new policies specific to how your reopened office will function during and after the pandemic. In addition, this will include answers to questions like – 

  • How many people will return to the office? 
  • How exactly will you divide the shifts between work from home & work at the office? 
  • How will you protect those with high-risk conditions or those that live with people with high-risk conditions
  • How will you ensure employees living in a region with a reported outbreak stay at home.
  1. Create COVID-related contingency plans

These are to assist you establish protocols to follow just in case of COVID-related emergencies, such as:

  • Quick shutdown just in case of a brand new mandated lockdown because of a spike in numbers
  • Office closure just in case of a new cluster within the vicinity
  • Procedure just in case a work-from-office employee tests positive 

Part Two: Redesigning The Office

Once corporate policies are set up, you’re now able to take a hard look at your current workplace so you’ll be able to figure out and do whatever has to be done in order to comply with all the given reopening guidelines by the government.

  1. Set workspaces a minimum of 6 feet apart

Particularly in an open office, you’ll want to move your workstations apart so that they’re a minimum of 6 feet away from one another. If a small percentage of your workforce is returning, you will not even have to space the furniture out, but rather ensure every alternate or every third workstation is occupied, leaving those in between empty. If two people sit face-to-face on opposite sides of a desk, ensure they move into the workstation to their side.

  1. Add extra protection to each desk

Shield your workforce further by installing easy-to-clean privacy screens or whiteboards to surround each workstation to forestall any organic process of private space or potential pathogens. Moreover, you’ll go the extra mile by providing each and every desk with mask, hand sanitizer and disinfectant that they’ll use while at work. 

  1. Choose policies regarding common areas

Depending on things in your locality, you’ll have to consider how your returning employees are going to be allowed to use certain facilities.

Will you retain non-essential areas like the gym, lounge, and rec rooms closed or open with limited functionality? How will you define the limitations?

How will you ensure people follow social distancing rules within the cafeteria, meeting rooms, reception, and other common areas, if they’re in use?

What rules should people follow in essential public areas just like the toilets, elevators, toilets, and workstations?

  1. Add additional workspaces to closed common areas

If you are doing have a large number of employees returning to the office, you’ll empty the common areas you’re temporarily closing, and move a number of the workstations there. That way, you’ll space out all the workstations to stay a distance of a minimum of 6 feet between one another.

  1. Founded signage on new workplace habits

Prepare posters and signs to teach and remind your returning workforce about proper workplace hygiene and protection habits to reduce the prospect of infection. Such signage can include reminders to:

  • Wash hands with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Sanitize hands frequently. 
  • Disinfect the workspace and telephone once during a while.
  • Cough or sneeze into elbows, not hands.
  • Be mindful of frequent face-touching.
  • Avoid handshakes (Encourage your workforce to create an alternative)
  • Be mindful of high-contact touchpoints.
  • Wipe down all the furniture touchpoints in common areas before as well as after use.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart.
  1. Re-optimize the reception, entrance or visitor’s area

A good thanks to protect your workforce is by putting in place cameras, adding detail to your visitor logs and employee attendance, and procuring specialized equipment. This equipment includes an infrared thermometer to test incoming visitors, a full stock of hand sanitizers, and private protection for the receptionist or security at the doorway. 

You’ll also have to revisit how this area is meant to make sure as few people get close contact as possible. Among others, create and founded the proper procedures for:

  • When employees arrive and leave.
  • When delivery persons must complete a delivery.
  • When maintenance or service personnel come for work.
  • When non-employees arrive for business reasons.

Part three: Cleaning And Disinfecting

Once you’ve cleared out assets you don’t need, planned the procurement of assets you’ll need, and created a fresh new design of your reopened workplace, it’s time to begin working in it. But first, you’ll need to disinfect it. During these particular tasks, if you’re conducting it yourself, you need to ensure that everybody involved wears proper & disposable protective equipment. 

Not only will this help eliminate any surviving pathogens within the air, but it’ll give your returning workforce an immense feeling of security and confidence, which they’ll have to get back to pre-COVID productivity levels.

  1. Clean all surfaces

Cleaning helps get rid of all the visible and a few invisible particles and is crucial before you’ll be able to disinfect. All you really need is soap, detergent and water, and make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions when cleaning both hard and soft surfaces within the workplace. 

Take this time to also declutter and clear off the smaller pieces of stuff you don’t need like old magazines, waste paper, broken stationary, and expired snacks. 

Part Four: Return To Work

You’ve made it! It’s time to send out that ‘come back to office’ email together with all the new policies in place, the measures you’ve taken for protection, and new workplace rules the returning employees must follow. 

You may have reopened the workplace now, but there are still steps you’ll take to minimize risk and ensure your reopened office can stay open.

  1. Ensure everybody follows new workplace safety practices

Hold seminars, host workshops, run drills, do whatever you really can to assist your returning workforce get into the habit of wearing masks, avoiding handshakes, performing temperature checks at the entrance, washing hands,  wiping down high-frequency touchpoints, staying atleast 6 feet apart, etc. Operate under the idea that this new normal is here to stay. Even after the pandemic is totally behind us, these are good habits to have.

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