As restrictions begin to lift, it’s important that businesses prepare their office and their staff for the new normal for the foreseeable future. Here are just a few suggested areas you might wish to consider.
If your office has been lying dormant since late March, it could be worthwhile having a general check completed prior to staff returning for work. Consider this brief checklist:
- Is all your IT infrastructure ready to use again? Were servers or networking equipment switched off and require a professional reboot and operational check? Do you need to check that copiers are ready to print and scan come the first day?
- Does someone need to check the staff fridge for that container of fury green who-knows-what that was left in there March 27th?
- Do you provide staff amenities such as tea, coffee, milk, biscuits etc? Is it worth doing a check of supplies and purchasing some fresh milk before day 1?
- Will you introduce additional hygiene measures that were not in place prior to isolation? Hand sanitiser gels? Surface sanitiser sprays? Consider having these ready before day 1 if you intend to, along with guidelines on when and where to use.
Staff mental wellbeing on return
For some, returning to an office to share close physical space with 10, 20, 30 or more colleagues may be overwhelming. Consider, and perhaps, acknowledge this and the fact that anyone who needs to discuss the matter can do so without judgment. Listen to any staff members concerns and attempt to support their needs, where possible. This may be in the form of easing back into days in the office or allocating some space within the office for those that need to adjust to working in a busy environment by transitioning via a quiet area. Or if you can, making the return to office optional for staff.
Continue to practice physical distancing
We can’t ease up on the practice of physical distancing as staff return to the office. One study in South Korea has highlighted how quickly COVID-19 can spread within an office environment if an infected person is working in close confines with colleagues. This seating plan shows just how drastic it was. If you have the available space, consider placing as much physical distance between each workstation as possible. If you don’t have the space, consider the introduction of a rotating roster for attendance so that on any given day, only every 2nd or 3rd workstation is occupied.
Aiding us in the early detection of contact after a positive diagnosis is the COVIDSafe App. Whilst a workplace cannot mandate the download of the app, you can certainly strongly encourage your staff to do so. It may be helpful to point out to those apprehensive staff that have Facebook or any Google services installed that these apps are free due to their privacy policies authorising them to sell targeted advertising capabilities to businesses, using the individuals detailed profile to do so. In these cases, perhaps the individual needs to reassess their apprehension.
Whilst most offices have in place the usual policies and procedures around not attending the office if you are unwell, often individuals’ definitions of unwell differ. Consider emphasising to staff the position the business wishes to take to ensure all staff stay safe, by tightening the often-loose definition of unwell. In the current climate, it is worthwhile encouraging anyone that is experiencing even the slightest symptom to remain home and either work remotely, or if more severe, rest. This should be practised at least until either the symptoms subside, or for those looking to remain more vigilant, for a period of at least 14 days since the last symptom. You may like to encourage any of your staff who show even the slightest of possible symptoms to take advantage of the now widely available COVID-19 testing locations.
Lastly, we would suggest you encourage staff to get the flu vaccine this year, even if they don’t normally get it. Whilst not directly linked to COVID-19 it can assist in keeping our immune systems healthier as they will not need to battle the flu virus and will also aid in lessening the strain on our health system so that they can prioritise possible COVID-19 cases where needed.
Onwards and upwards
This is yet another step in this unfortunate journey we all must take but it’s a positive one. Let’s all focus on the positive nature of this transition and work together to ensure all future steps in this journey remain onwards and upwards and not backwards.
We wish you and your staff all the best and as always, stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive.
Oh, and in case you missed it in the above or we were not direct enough…
PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE COVIDSAFE APP!