Return to Office Guidelines – Post COVID
The pandemic has had a profound effect on everyone’s personal lives and livelihood. As offices prepare to bring back their employees after an unprecedentedly long gap, it is essential to keep in mind the importance of adhering to covid guidelines. Return to Office Post COVID has become a hot topic and let me help you with the crux.
Businesses need to do more than just asking their employees to sanitise their hands and wear masks. If offices can follow some simple measures, they can ensure a COVID-free zone without much hassle and can get their productivity and profits back on track in no time.
Before jumping into the guidelines, the foremost requirement is to synergise and formulate a proper plan for returning employees. This team needs to be responsible to guide the organisation in the right direction and ensure that every employee who enters the office premises follows the protocols and guidelines. Here is a list of five main areas that need to be considered for enhanced safety at the workplace.
Indoor Air Quality Check – Avoid Airborne Pandemic
Workplaces may look clean but they are actually warehouses of multiple pathogens that can be easily transmitted across employees. With the onset of pandemic and the return to office scenario (with most businesses being well equipped with hybrid facility management tools like SeQure to seamlessly optimize their facility), it is mandatory that offices have a reserved budget for specific services like ventilation, plumbing and air purification. Failure to do so can put employees’ health at risk and contribute to an unhealthy work environment, which may inhibit the overall productivity of the organisation.
- The foremost requirement is assessing the air quality inside the office building and checking the standard numbers laid out by the government. Offices need to be carefully examined to ensure proper installation, air quality index and working aspects of every purifier. This will help them understand the intensity of work needed to ensure a cleaner and purified air.
- Evaluate the use of HVAC filters and ensure that they are of the highest quality. An HVAC filter has a huge impact on the ventilation of rooms and floors, filtering the contaminants present in the air. They regulate the airflow and ensure that in case of infections, the contaminated droplets are not passed from one person to another quickly. It is crucial that these filters are up and running in perfect condition and are of the latest model especially for those zones in the office that receive no outside air.
- Resort to providing natural ventilation for employees so that they are able to sit in a well ventilated space. This is important in terms of avoiding the spread and also great for mental well-being of the employees, proven to enhance their productivity and efficiency.
Keeping the Premises Clean
There is a dire need to ensure consistent cleaning and hygiene standards in the wake of pandemic outbreak. Companies cannot follow their generic houekeeping strategy while reopening businesses because of obvious safety issues. For ensuring complete COVID-secure premise and an uninterrupted productivity, businesses need to adopt a strict sanitization regime.
- Usage of approved disinfectants across all the areas of usage in the workplace. This ensures that the chemicals being used are really able to help in destroying the virus for stopping its transmission.
- Cleaning before disinfecting rules needs to be followed at all times. Just cleaning or just disinfecting is not enough. Any surface that is being used by a lot of people should be cleaned at regular intervals using a surface cleaner or detergent and then disinfected using a surface disinfectant.
- Keeping masks and gloves handy for employees so they are accessible to the employees in every room and every vulnerable zone. It is best to not limit the number of gloves or masks per employee, instead encourage them to frequently change their protective wares according to the need.
- Install hand sanitiser bottles and sprays across every entrance and hallway. Invest in proper pumping machines and touchless dispensers so everyone is able to use sanitisers safely, with minimum touch and contact.
- Cleaning high usage areas like elevators, stairways, door handles, window knobs along with the amenities present in the office that are free to be used by everyone like scanners, printers, coffee machines etc.
- Make available wet wipes and disinfectant sprays to employees and enforce rules like mandatory cleaning of desks and chair handles with wipes after every usage. This is a great cleaning practice, especially when offices are operating in shifts and the same desks are being used by different employees on the same day.
- Go touchless by incorporating no-touch technologies like sensor lights that operate without switches, voice powered commands inside office buildings etc. If these are too expensive to install, organisations can invest in touchless visitor management systems that can actually inhibit the transmission of virus from incoming visitors. This is touchless, AI powered software that allows the visitors self sign-in to the facility with their ID proof. With digital kiosks at the front door, the visitors can be scanned for temperature and other health issues and screened for vaccination status. This can save your reception staff from coming in contact with every visitor and ensures higher safety of the premises.
Following Social Distancing at Workplace
An effective way to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus is maintaining social distance. While some companies may operate fully remotely, there are some organisations who require a certain number of on-site employees to seamlessly manage critical operations. For such workplaces, it is essential to introduce measures that assure that social distancing guidelines are being followed strictly.
- Adopt shift modules for distributing the workforce. Divide the staff or allocate the resource to multiple time slots so all the employees don’t end up in the office. This will ensure that the office never crosses the decided limit of people present at a time.
- Introduce office desk booking solution for seamless return to office. Train employees to use a proper software for pre-desk booking that allows the employees to select their desks online whenever they choose to work. With such solutions, the employers can regulate the bookable desks and ensure that the employees are seated at least 6ft apart.
- Set up a proper communication network for sending timely updates and conveying crucial information within the office. This needs to be done to ensure that the employees need not physically go to reception zones or the bulletin room to look up important notices. Companies can even opt for IT Help Desks that allow employees to take their concerns/ issues/ support tickets to proper authorities using online forms, avoiding person-to-person interaction.
- Encourage virtual interactions among colleagues. Calling in employees to use the conference rooms or meeting rooms frequently may not be safe so it’s best to train the team to carry forward their tasks using virtual tools and collaboration channels.
- Use signage across the workplace to direct the visitors, contractors and employees towards proper rooms to avoid overcrowding in hallways, lifts for staircases. Signage can be easily used to convey information about hygiene, directions, caution and so much more eliminating the need of guards or extra staff.
Risk Assessment and Training the Employees
It is crucial that organisations carry out a planned risk assessment of the facility. The best way to eliminate a risk is to identify it. Therefore, identification of risks associated with the working conditions, processes, machinery, crowded zones of the premises etc need to be identified beforehand.
For an impactful risk assessment, the management can begin with and consider:
- Which areas of the workplace need to be made safer?
- Who are the employees who are most at risk of getting contaminated?
- How vulnerable are visitors or guests entering the premises?
- Which zones need better ventilation and repairs?
With a better risk assessment plan, the employees can be trained in an organised fashion. The companies need to ensure that every employee or contractor entering a building knows how to wear a mask and use PPE kits.
While most people are aware of the measures needed to stay protected from the virus, it is crucial that companies hold webinars and educational sessions for enlightening employees about the right way to wear equipment and the “don’t touch zones”. These sessions should also inform the employees about the steps needed to be taken if any person tests positive inside the facility, the list of doctors who can be approached in cases of emergency and lay out a proper procedure of the quarantine duration of employees tested positive during work, if any. This will not only help the organisations plan a strict protocol for all zones within the premise but will also ensure that the management is prepared to tackle any adverse situations that may arise along these lines.