A Guide to Reopening Your Office Post Lockdown

Now that the US government has deployed its “Opening Up America Again” plan, it’s time for employers to start taking action to be prepared to open up their doors to their employees again. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the way this coronavirus spreads is through the transmission of droplets containing the virus from an infected person to the nose, eyes, or mouth of a healthy person. This virus is so easily spreadable that its transmission does not have to be direct; it can also happen through surfaces. This means that people not only have to be cautious of each other, but also all the surfaces around them that might have been coughed on, sneezed on, or even touched.

The best way to prevent the spread of the virus and keep your employees safe is by following the steps below: 

Knowing Your Responsibilities:

First things first, you need to learn what your responsibilities are as an employer, and what you need to be doing to ensure everyone in your space is as safe as possible; which is what the main responsibility of an employer is, i.e., ensuring that the workplace is adequately equipped with sanitizing stations and cleaning supplies, as well as putting together a list of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for staff safety.

Before actually opening up the office to your employees, you need to conduct an assessment of your workplace and identify all the areas where your employees are at the potential risk of getting COVID-19. These areas should include all the most used spaces and the most populated areas. Any place that employees may be in contact with one another or have to touch surfaces that other employees have touched should be considered high-risk areas.

These high traffic areas can include bathrooms, elevators, entrances, meeting rooms, and other such spaces. Once these areas have been identified, limit or eliminate the exposure to the areas accordingly, and enforce appropriate sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

A system needs to be put in place to ensure that these areas are regularly and thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.  

Educating Your Employees:

A workplace is only safe as long as its employees are careful; so, it is important to conduct health and safety training to educate employees on the virus and explain new office SOPs. These SOPs should outline office safety, and additionally cover some home safety procedures as well.

First, start by teaching employees about the virus and help them understand the tenacity at which this virus spreads. Explain that the eyes, nose, and mouth should be protected and that the virus can spread through surfaces.

Employees should be educated on the use of protective gear like gloves and masks, and how to properly use them, wear them, and discard them. According to the WHO, arrange a quick demonstration on how to wash your hands properly to ensure that your hands are clean.

Wear masks or cloth face coverings should be made mandatory for employees whenever possible, or any time they are sitting in an enclosed space. They should be encouraged to wipe down their workstations with disinfectant wipes and sanitize their hands often to limit the spread of the virus.

Visitors in the office should be discouraged; however, if it is unavoidable, they should follow the safety protocols.  

Equipping Your Office:

Equipping your office with the right tools to limit the spread of the virus is probably the most important step to take as an employer. The workplace needs to be equipped to handle the number of people in the office and how often they will need the equipment as well. Workstations should be set far apart from each other unless they are divided into individual cubicles.

The office needs contactless hand sanitizer dispensers, either wall-mounted or on a stand like these, in areas with the highest traffic. These dispensers should be filled with 70% alcohol-based sanitizers to be effective against the virus.

The workplace should also be fitted with sanitizing wipe dispensers to ensure that employees can wipe down potentially harmful surfaces, and keep their work stations clean. These dispensers should be filled with 70% alcohol-based wipes to be effective.

Make sure that your office space is also equipped with masks and gloves for employees and visitors. Proper disposal of used wipes, gloves, and masks is very important; so, ensure the availability of covered bins around the office.

Some employers might not consider the importance of air quality and air filtration when making the workplace safe from COVID-19. You need to make sure that the air in the office is circulating and filtered out while fresh air enters at the same time. Doing so will ensure that any airborne droplets are filtered out, while employee respiratory health benefits at the same time.  

Taking Action:

Conduct daily health checks as employees enter their workplace. These checks should include temperature checks using contactless thermometers, and checking for signs of the virus. Any employee showing even the slightest signs of the virus should be sent home immediately and asked to work from home for at least a week, to monitor their symptoms.

The main symptoms to look out for are coughing, flu-like symptoms, fever, shortness of breath, loss of smell, red eyes, or soreness of the body.

Even with every precaution in place, it is important to be aware that employees could potentially bring the virus into the workplace unknowingly. The best thing to do is remain vigilant and provide solutions through strict SOPs if a situation like this does occur.