The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on how and where we work.
It’s worth mentioning that studies show three out of four workers prefer to continue working from home at least half of the time. That said, others are ready to get back to the office now. What will life in this new normal look like? You need to build a solid plan ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling when it’s time to open the doors and return to office.
Trust the Experts
Make sure you are following the guidelines of federal, state, and local experts. It’s important to keep in mind that different regions will have different restrictions and requirements for businesses.
- Visit your state and/or county website for up-to-date guidelines regarding workplace preparedness.
- Familiarize yourself with the Returning to Work guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- Familiarize yourself with the Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Update Your Space Before Your Return to Office
Some changes may be necessary to increase the safety of your physical office environment. Work together with your property management team and facilities staff to make the necessary changes.
- Work with your property management team on safety updates. Determine who is responsible for things like improved air purification systems.
- Understand entry requirements. Determine the restrictions and requirements for entering the building and communicate them to employees. Learn about elevator capacity limits that could delay your team’s arrival times.
- Update floor plans and directions. If possible, create a one-way flow through hallways and other shared spaces. You can use floor markings in congested areas like the front desk. If your office contains shared tables and chairs or soft seating areas, make sure all seats are spaced at least 6ft. (2m.) apart.
Determine Who Needs to Be In-Office
Studies show that most employees would prefer a more flexible work-from-home policy, even post-COVID. When re-opening your office, align your policies to prioritize employees for in-office schedules that would have the greatest benefit.
- Determine Capacity Limits. Evaluate your office space to determine a maximum capacity headcount that will allow for safe distancing of at least six feet.
- Prioritize Entry by Role. Identify which roles cannot be done remotely and allocate space for employees in those roles.
- Identify Productivity Issues. Consult with team managers and employees to identify individuals who are struggling with productivity from home.
- Survey your Team. Use a survey to identify employees who would prefer working in the office and how frequently they would like to come in.
- Provide Scheduling Tools. Empower employees and managers to schedule in-office time as needed by adopting a scheduling tool, and increase visibility into who is scheduled to be in-office.
Set Clear Expectations On Office Return
You are doing your part to make sure your team is safe when they return to the office. That said, your team also needs to feel safe. That feeling will be different for everyone. Clearly defining the expectations will allow your employees to make an informed decision about whether they are comfortable with returning. Many companies provide a Return-to-Office Training to improve communication and transparency around new policies.
- Implement Wellness Screening. You can screen employees when they arrive to the office. Alternately, you can have employees self-screen prior to leaving from home. Make sure employees have the right tools (like thermometers) for screening.
- Communicate your Mask Policy. First, it’s important to give clear instructions on mask requirements, including when and where employees must wear them in the office. Second, clarify if there will be any exemptions for individuals with documented health issues that prevent them from wearing masks. Ensure you have extras in stock.
- Update Visitor and Vendor Rules. Update your policies to limit the number of people entering the office and coming into contact with your staff. Limit deliveries to essential items and create a drop zone for packages to limit delivery people in the office. Consider having wellness screening for vendors that come into your office, like cleaning staff.
- Update Company Benefit Policies. If you’ve made updates to your company sick leave, time off, work-from-home, or expense policies make sure these have been communicated in writing and relevant employee handbooks are updated.
- Assign Sanitation Duties. Your office should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at the end of each day. Many high-touch surfaces will need to be sanitized several times a day or after every use. Make it clear to your team what they are responsible for sanitizing.
- Determine Your Vaccination Policy. Inform your employees if you recommend vaccination or are requiring vaccination to come to the office. Make sure you have clear policies in place for vaccine record keeping and how to handle exceptions.
Have a Plan for COVID-19 Exposure
Even with everyone’s best efforts and compliance it is possible that one of your team members may contract COVID-19. If this happens, a rapid response is essential to help stop the spread.
- Understand your Reporting Requirements. You should inform state and/or local agencies of a possible outbreak, and in some states this is required by law. Have their contact information ready.
- Have an Action Plan for Exposure. Your policy should include time time period an employee must stay out of the office. COVID-19 is highly contagious, so you should also tell them if they must take a test prior to returning to office if they have:
- A positive test for COVID-19
- Symptomatic for COVID-19 without a test
- Knowingly come into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
- Came into close contact with a symptomatic individual without a test.
- Implement a Contact Tracing Plan. Determine how you can quickly identify and notify exposed employees. Tools like Worksphere can help you contact trace in minutes. Determine if exposed employees should be blocked from entering the office, and for how long.
With 76% of the global workforce now preferring to work from home, mandating in-office attendance could lead to a loss of talent. Flexibility is important. You an offer a work from home option when possible. While the goal should be to re-open permanently, shutting down again if necessary is also possible. The health and safety of your employees and their families should always come first.
For help with planning office capacity, assigning seating locations, sending wellness surveys, and contact tracing, consider starting a free trial with Worksphere today.