Office Upgrades To Improve Health And Safety
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything we knew about life, both personally and professionally. Because of this, we are adapting. In no area is this perhaps most noticeable as in our workspaces. And as the pandemic continues to linger on, the way we work will keep pace so that we may continue to operate our businesses while keeping our employees safe.
If your employees have yet to return to in-person workdays or if your company is still in transition, it is never too early to start making arrangements to welcome everyone back without putting their health or safety at risk. Keep in mind that team morale is perhaps more important than it’s ever been, so keeping your staff happy by prioritizing their wellness will benefit your employees, your customers, and your overall business.
Planning and Budgeting
Planning to open your doors means you must first take a close look at your budget. Unfortunately, although many of your employees likely remain remote, you are probably still paying for your physical workspace as if they were there. This may leave you with very little money to make upgrades, but there are resources to help you find the funding you need to get you and your employees back to business.
As you set about planning your new normal, there are many things to keep in mind. These include the physical space you have, the job functions your employees perform, and how, exactly, to keep things moving in a way that is both safe and productive.
Remote Work The New Norm
The coronavirus pandemic proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that remote work was possible. Offices across the country have been empty since March, and very few have seen a significant decrease in productivity. In fact, the vast majority have found that, with the right technology, which includes things like powerful laptops and virtual private networks, business has pretty much been as usual.
Remote work remains a smart option, particularly if you cannot integrate extensive equipment upgrades, such as contactless doors and individual temperature monitors, both of which are mentioned by the BBC as a pandemic-proofing office upgrade. If you are planning to let your employees continue to work remotely, it’s best to spend money on technology and services that keep you all in constant communication. This includes faster computers and access to workflow systems.
In-Office Safety Protocols
As employees do return to the office, your first task is to redesign your workspace. The days of a large communal hub with desks densely packed together and actual offices few and far between are likely over. Instead, individual workspaces will be spaced out the accepted six feet to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Clear plexiglass barriers may need to be installed in areas where constant social distancing is not possible, and your employees must be clearly versed on your new office disinfectant procedures. The Department of Homeland Security offers more information on disinfecting an office environment; however, it may be necessary to bring in additional cleaning staff to handle these cleaning tasks throughout the day, such as when your employees go to lunch or in the evenings at the end of business.
Another good policy to adopt is requiring the basic safety protocols many businesses that remained open during the pandemic have used. Each employee’s temperature should be taken when they enter the building at the start of the day, and each team member should verify they have not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms since their last in-person workday. And while you may get some pushback, masks should be required any time an employee is not able to maintain six feet of distance from others, including when they are walking from one room or part of the building to another. Again, workspaces should be set up to follow social distancing protocols, but staff members who are required to wear masks more frequently, like custodial employees, should be given “mask breaks” when they can step outside bare faced for 10 minutes or so.
Despite keeping employees physically apart, there still remains the possibility for transmission on high-touch surfaces. For this reason, adding key card door locks and replacing your old timekeeping methods with a mobile biometric time clock, which ClockInEasy explains can also make your workspace more efficient while protecting you from wage and labor lawsuits. A mobile application is not only effective in-office, but can also help you and your remote employees keep track of their time if they are not in a salaried position.
Part of your reopening plan should also address new policies and procedures that will help keep everyone safe. If you have yet to do so, now is a good time to review the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which mandates up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. It has also expanded emergency medical leave for those employees who must take off work to care for children for reasons directly related to the pandemic.
Something else to consider is offering a rotating schedule to employees whose duties can be performed at different times of the day. For example, if your business is data-driven, you may have employees that can run reports and crunch numbers in the overnight hours for use the next day by your analysts and other relevant professionals. A rotating shift can also reduce the number of bodies in your building at any given time, which will go a long way toward improving your social-distancing efforts.
It’s time to get back to work. But your business will never look the same, and it may even be better than before. By prioritizing the health and safety of your employees first, you show that you have their best interest at heart, and that will make for a more loyal workforce. It may not be easy, but it is never too early to begin strategizing a plan to reopen your doors and get your people back to work.