Your New Normal: Top 7 Office Reopening Guidelines

All across the United States, local economies are gradually opening back up. This is exciting news for business owners, employees, and customers alike. However, this staggered reopening does not mean that COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 has suddenly vanished. Indeed, this virus is here to stay, at least until a suitable vaccine has been developed and distributed. Businesses must remain vigilant as they reopen to ensure the health and safety of their workers, customers, and guests. And some businesses are at greater risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission than others.

Office buildings, for instance, may pose a greater threat of infection because they are enclosed and often contain several people in relatively close quarters. While health officials have found that COVID-19 has a hard time spreading via touching surfaces, the virus can easily spread via respiratory droplets (i.e. from sneezing, coughing, etc.), and this risk is amplified indoors with minimal air circulation.

So, if your office gets the go-ahead to open back up, here are 7 reopening guidelines to keep you and your people safe and healthy in this “new normal.”

  1. Ensure Building Readiness

Many offices share space with others inside a single building. The downside of this setup is that the safety of your office largely depends on the condition of the building as a whole. If, for instance, the building has poor ventilation, faulty water systems, general uncleanliness, etc., you should wait to reopen until all of these issues have been addressed.

  1. Analyze Facility Health Risk

Next, assess the state of your office in particular, looking for potential health and safety hazards. More specifically, you should take stock of any factors that might increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including close-contact areas, high-touch surfaces, poor ventilation, and more. If you employ/outsource cleaning services for offices, make sure they are part of this conversation so they can focus their efforts on addressing and resolving potential hazards.

  1. Control/Adjust the Office’s Work Environment

After you’ve identified potential problems in your office, you must take steps to mitigate these risk factors by implementing various hazard controls. These hazard controls refer to both physical and behavioral adjustments in the office. For instance, you might modify your office’s layout to keep employees at least six feet apart, install transparent shields/barriers throughout the office, replace reusable/common/high-touch objects with single-use ones, improve ventilation, encourage sick employees to stay home, limit in-office capacity by retaining remote work and staggering shifts, etc. These changes might be tedious and costly in the short-term, but they can go a long way in preventing the spread of infection.

  1. Educate Employees

Education should be an integral part of your office’s reopening process. The more workers know about COVID-19, how it spreads, what the risk factors are, best practices for personal hygiene, etc., the better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ample, up-to-date information and printable resources that are easy to understand and translated into multiple languages.

  1. Conduct Regular Health Checks

Until a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available, daily health surveillance is key in reducing the spread of the virus. These health checks might involve screening every employee for symptoms and temperature before they enter the office. The CDC has a useful FAQ for conducting these regular screenings.

  1. Develop/Enhance Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols

The COVID-19 virus doesn’t appear to primarily spread via touching surfaces. That said, the virus can live for a prolonged period on various surfaces, increasing a facility’s risk of transmission. For this reason, it is crucial for offices to redouble their cleaning and disinfection efforts. Both employees and disinfecting cleaning services (if applicable) should use EPA-registered disinfectant products and follow their instructions (especially regarding dwell time). Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, and footwear should also be readily available for those tasked with cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. High-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, keyboards, toilets, phones, etc. require the most attention, and visibly dirty surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. The CDC has detailed cleaning/disinfecting protocols here.

  1. Closely Follow Local Health Updates and Guidelines

New information and cases regarding COVID-19 are being discovered every day, and the situation varies between every community. For these reasons, it is important to maintain awareness of how the virus is spreading in your region. Stay up to date on current developments and guidelines both locally and broadly and be prepared to adjust your reopening protocols accordingly.

The world is gradually opening back up, but we still have a long way to go. We must all continue to do our part to keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy. At The Budd Group, we are committed to helping businesses navigate these difficult times by providing customizable professional disinfecting services and more.

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