Though the COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been raging for months, we are all still in uncharted territory. Health experts are doing their best to track the virus’ spread and learn more about it, but there are no clear-cut answers as of yet. Meanwhile, business owners and workers eagerly await a return to normalcy.
Fortunately, many regions in the U.S. have begun to allow various kinds of businesses and offices to reopen in some capacity, and it probably won’t be long until most businesses get the green light. Still, COVID-19 will remain a potential health risk for the foreseeable future, so your office reopening strategy must account for this reality. With the proper precautions, though, you can resume operations safely. But there’s much more to do than merely hire cleaning services for offices. Here are six things to consider when reopening your office “after” COVID-19.
In theory, conducting daily employee health screenings (i.e. go over any symptoms, check temperatures, etc.) is a useful way to ensure that only workers who are feeling healthy enter the office and therefore reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. In practice, however, these screenings require significant resources and pose potential legal/privacy issues -- not to mention results may be misleading. Efforts must be made to protect employees’ personal health info, employees should be compensated for the time it takes to conduct these screenings, and standing in line with fellow workers may increase the risk of transmission. Additionally, while not the primary source of spread, asymptomatic carriers can also transmit COVID-19 to others.
So, while it’s a good idea to implement some system for daily health surveillance, it should be in conjunction with healthcare professionals who can take all of these factors into account and use the proper equipment. Consider whether or not your budget and operations can handle this strain.
The collective efforts to social distance (i.e. remain at least six feet apart from others) seem to have paid off, reducing the spread of COVID-19 infection over the past few months. As such, health experts recommend that we continue this practice for the foreseeable future, even as businesses reopen. Of course, you might find it difficult to enforce social distancing in your office, especially if your workspace is smaller and/or contains several employees in close quarters. There are ways to encourage social distancing, however -- namely by adjusting your office’s layout (i.e. separating desks/cubicles), installing barriers to create one-way traffic lanes, postponing large in-office gatherings, posting signs to remind employees to stay six feet apart, etc. Consider whether you’re able to take these steps without interfering with your operations too much.
Another way to incentivize social distancing is to continue allowing employees to work from home, if applicable. Additionally, understand that some employees might not yet feel comfortable returning to the office and would rather work from home until your community’s spread has significantly decreased. Ask yourself if your business can remain operational and efficient with a portion of your workforce working remotely.
There has been conflicting information from different health organizations regarding the efficacy of mask-wearing in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Still, many regions encourage people to wear masks when indoors and when standing or sitting near others. At this point, most of your employees may have masks of their own that they can wear at the office, but some might not. Before reopening, make sure you have a sufficient stock of masks to give employees who need them. Additionally, stock up on other key supplies such as gloves, hand sanitizer, EPA-registered disinfectants, etc.
While COVID-19 seems to primarily spread in the air via respiratory droplets, the virus may pose a threat when landing on surfaces, too. Plus, other infectious diseases can spread via touching surfaces. If you want to ensure the health and safety of your people when reopening, you must prioritize proper office cleaning and disinfection. Do you have disinfecting cleaning services for your workplace? If not, can you afford to outsource disinfection services, or should you focus on training employees to handle these duties themselves? Will that be effective? Consider these matters closely before reopening.
It can be challenging enough to keep tabs on your employees’ health -- doing the same for customers, partners, and/or visitors is nearly impossible. As soon as you allow outside actors into your office, you and your employees are at greater risk of infection. With this in mind, consider whether or not you will allow visitors into your office, and, if so, how to go about this process. You might post signage on your doors telling guests not to enter if they’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19 or may have symptoms themselves. It might also be necessary to require guests to call ahead before entering.
There is a lot of think about when reopening your office during these strange times. While these considerations may seem tedious, costly, and overcautious, they are designed to keep you and your people safe and healthy. If you want more advice on reopening protocols and/or need a reliable partner for cleaning and disinfecting, The Budd Group is here to help.
For more information regarding COVID-19 and recommendations for environmental cleaning and disinfection from the CDC, click here.
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