By Tania Longeau
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, stores, restaurants, and offices are slowly starting to reopen and resume business as usual. However, the risk of spreading the virus remains relevant. It is important to take proactive measures to ensure the safety of your clients and staff while building trust in your brand. Here is our essential list of ideas to encourage consumer confidence and promote safe business practices.
1. Minimize Item Sharing
Office supplies and appliances, such as printers, are typically communal items in the office. As COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours after contact, it is important to minimize item sharing as much as possible.
Assign each employee their own essential stationery items. This step may cause you to invest in additional office supplies like printer toner, pens, and markers. You can reduce the strain on your office budget by opting for discounted or reusable items, such as cheap HP ink, reusable cartridges, and recycled paper.
Remember to keep sanitizing products close to items that must be shared, such as printers, staplers, laminators and copiers. It’s also helpful to place clear instructions next to your sanitizing products to ensure everybody sanitizes correctly.
2. Set Strict Boundaries
The virus spreads through contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces, so creating a strict “no personal contact” rule is essential to mitigate the virus’ spread.
This type of rule likely means no handshaking or physical greetings, like hugs or high-fives. It probably also requires you to change the locations of your conferences, client appointments and staff meetings. Opt for open, well-ventilated spaces where meeting attendees can maintain the WHO-recommended six feet of separation. You should also reduce the number of people attending each meeting. Another option is to host meetings virtually. With virtual meetings, remote employees can participate as well.
For office waiting rooms and reception areas, a physical boundary around the reception desk is helpful. Consider plexiglass, spaced out seating and clear line demarcations to safeguard both staff and clients. Remember, most people aren’t used to these new rules, so physical barriers and visual aids will help people remember to maintain a safe physical distance.
3. Reconfigure Your Floor Plan
COVID-19 preparations may mean the end of the open-plan office space. While open-plan offices can facilitate collaborative work, these layouts are risky in a post-COVID world. The densely-packed desks create a difficult environment for social distancing.
Many office employees are continuing to work from home. Employees who must return to the workplace can stay safe in office layouts that feature well-spaced desks and partitions to keep people separated. You can also position desks to face walls or reimagine communal areas, which should no longer be used, to accommodate workspaces.
4. Adjust Employee Working Hours
Adjusting your layout may mean that you can’t accommodate the same number of employees in your office as you once did. You can support your workers by creating a rotating schedule with flexible work hours. This type of schedule should ensure everyone can work from the office at some point during the week.
For example, you might divide your employees into teams, with one team working from the office Monday, Wednesday, Friday, while the other team works Tuesday and Thursday. On days when employees aren’t in the office, they can work from home. You can use one of the many recommended time and attendance systems of 2020 to easily track work hours for your remote workers.
5. Place Easily Identifiable Hand Sanitizing Stations
Hand washing is the single best way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Set up clearly defined hand sanitizing stations at locations around the office. The station should have bold signage describing how to use the sanitizer and encourage regular use.
Hand sanitizer should have a minimum of 60 percent alcohol to be effective. Ensure there is hand sanitizer available for guests, contractors, delivery drivers and anyone else entering your office space. If your company can afford it, hand sanitizer at each employee desk can encourage more frequent use.
6. Set Rules About Face Mask Use
Face masks can prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting saliva droplet spray when talking, sneezing or coughing. While it may not stop you from getting the disease, it can protect others if you are asymptomatic. However, masks can be stifling in certain environments and can alienate staff or customers.
Varying states and companies have their own guidelines for mask use. Continue to check on these ever-changing regulations concerning when and where employees need to wear their face masks. Check online to learn about where each state stands on reopening. Some areas have stricter rules than others.
Depending on your business, you may require constant mask use or limit mask requirements to groups over four people. Certain businesses may only require masks in specific locations around the office. Set face mask rules that suit the needs of your business while keeping staff and clients safe.
7. Remove Common Gathering Areas
While the water cooler may have been one of the best places to socialize and get to know your co-workers during office hours, communal gathering areas are now hazardous places. Make a note of frequent employee hangouts and either modify or restrict these areas to comply with social distancing rules.
Common areas most definitely include break rooms. Lunch, snack and other break times are important for mental and physical health. However, you must monitor these breaks to ensure employees are complying with distancing rules and performing adequate handwashing practices. You may also need to stagger break times to minimize the number of people eating in close proximity. Masks usually cannot be used while eating.
Implementing new methods to navigate the office is important in minimizing the risk of a coronavirus resurgence. Once you have updated your employee handbook to reflect your new set of rules, ensure employees consistently comply for a healthier, more productive workplace.
Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters.
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