The Post COVID-19: Seven Ways to Protect Your Office for a Safe Return to Work

Wednesday February 17th, 2021

Author: Staples Professional Inc.

Health and safety in the workplace has always been a significant concern, but what we have learned from the recent pandemic with all the repercussions we know of is that employers must view all interactions in a new light as employees return to work. The change in lifestyles of employees who have to work from home has recently required a period of adjustment, but it has become the new normal over time. With the return to work comes to its share of worries and concerns for employees, especially when it comes to workplace safety.

New workplace safety practices are essential to keep employees and customers safe in everyday interactions. The reality of the business environment where social distancing practices are in place demands clear communication, a defined plan of action for performing tasks in accordance with new safety guidelines, and ensuring that their health and safety is in place. top of the priority list. Our team offers you some useful tips to consider when developing a return-to-work plan for your employees.

Make a return to work plan

Key management officials need to come together to make sure they understand the concerns of their employees and that communication is clear throughout the duration of the pandemic. It is important to ensure that plans to reopen are endorsed by all departments. Government regulations regarding activities and social distancing may vary from province to province. It is therefore essential to familiarize yourself with local guidelines.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, social distancing measures must be taken seriously. A specific plan of action must be established by management as to how you will ensure the health and safety of your employees. Having clear guidelines in place early on helps ensure managers have the information they need to answer questions and reduces the potential for distraction from answering those questions. In addition, when there are health concerns, managers have the guidelines they need to decide what action to take. Leaders should also lead by example, as this practice may lose its effectiveness over time.

Inspect your workplace

Perform a check of your company’s health and safety manuals and take a full tour of your facilities. Make a list of all the aspects you will need to cover in your health and safety procedures. Determine what instruction signs, floor decals, and safety measures need to be in place so that employees can use them safely. At your workplace, assess the following:

  • The quality and circulation of indoor air;
  • The number and accessibility of hand sanitizers and soap dispensers. You can also order an extra supply of soap and disinfectant as these products should be used more frequently given the increased awareness of handwashing practices;
  • The locations of offices and individual workspaces and current practices for keeping them clean. An open-plan space may not be suitable depending on the proximity of employees to each other while cubicle workspaces can solve your business problems;
  • In the case of hotels, remember that sharing desks and workstations to ensure social distancing will require extensive end-of-day cleaning before they can be occupied by other employees the next business day. . These cleaning measures should not be taken lightly as it is imperative to prevent the spread of germs;
  • If there are shared desks, eg standing workstations, it should be decided whether these will remain in use and, if so, who will be responsible for keeping them clean;
  • Conference and break rooms should be thoroughly cleaned and should be disinfected more frequently. Floor decals should also be placed in break rooms to identify tables and seats that are two meters apart from each other. Just as gym equipment needs to be cleaned, your business needs to ensure employees have hand towels and disinfectant spray before and after using common areas;
  • In addition, break rooms should be used at different times in order to ensure social distancing.
Make sure all workers have the proper equipment

With the introduction of social distancing, new needs arise in terms of personal protective equipment, particularly for jobs involving interaction with customers, contract workers / visitors entering the building and bathroom hygiene. , to only cite a few. In places where customers are involved, it is important to consider whether operations can be safe with the introduction of new equipment.

Examine the daily duties and tasks of each employee to determine where new personal protective equipment might be needed. Employees should be provided with maintenance instructions for equipment that can be safely reused and cared for. For equipment that must be discarded after use, it is essential to communicate this procedure to reduce the risk of infection.

For example, can an electronic signature be used for visitors to your building to reduce face-to-face requirements in your reception area? Contact your Staples Professional account manager to get an assessment of your facilities tailored to your business needs. If you cannot find the products you want on, your account manager can help you get the products you need in a timely manner. Make sure you are well prepared by having the resources and personal protective equipment required to keep your staff safe. It’s also a good idea to order the products that are essential for your business to run smoothly in anticipation of a possible pandemic. Planning, preparation and reaction time are essential to protect your investment and your employees.

Prepare all physical spaces

The biggest challenge in making a return-to-work safety plan is preparing all physical spaces. With little notice of the impact of the pandemic, many offices have been hastily closed and must pick up where they left off.

  • Facilities must be prepared and cleaned before reopening. Consider using in-house cleaning staff, with the help of contract cleaning specialists for the deep cleaning. If you are outsourcing, you will need to book and organize this service in advance. The frequency of maintenance may increase to comply with occupational health and safety measures;
  • Workstations may require reconfiguration if there are no significant distancing measures already in place. Partitions can be a temporary solution in open-plan offices, when employees are seated nearby;
  • Where appropriate, the use of physical barriers, such as sneeze guards or temporary plastic sheeting, helps protect employees and customers;
  • Consider a new layout to allow reconfiguration of waiting rooms and offices to allow physical distancing;
  • Review all meeting rooms and shared spaces and update signage and reservation procedures to reduce the maximum number of meeting participants. Whenever possible, use video conferencing for meetings to avoid using closed environments / shared spaces.
Provide visual safety devices and messages

When employees return to the office, there will be new scenarios that may cause confusion or hesitation. Using visual security features will help deliver clear messages and directions to reassure everyone that security is your top priority. Here are some solutions:

  • Floor tape could be used to indicate the ideal distance to be kept in elevators, queues and other important places;
  • In common areas where seats cannot be removed, mark appropriate places to sit in order to maintain social distance;
  • Post appropriate signage for instructions on handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer. Social distancing reminders are essential, especially over time;
  • In large offices, the introduction of name tags above partitions can eliminate additional interaction if a person is looking for another person. In a large office building, where possible, video conferencing or instant messaging should be used to reduce contact;
  • Cleaning products and items suitable for employee use should be clearly identified.
Communicate the return to work procedures to your employees in order to empower them

Once your management team is informed, it is essential that the information is communicated accurately to all employees. Clear communication through internal memos reduces stress and enables a safe return to work. Make recommendations as to your expectations of employees when they return to work and describe the additional safety measures that will be put in place for employees.

As with all health and safety practices, this will be a shared workload, and employees will need to participate in ongoing efforts. This list could include:

  • Fair use of personal protective equipment and the obligation to follow specific instructions;
  • Wearing masks and gloves at all times when social distancing of 2 m is not possible;
  • The use of best practices for the safe and secure use of bathrooms and cafeterias (what employees should do on their own to ensure the safety of those around them);
  • The use of new carpooling policies;
  • Responsibility for maintaining their own space and cleaning door handles, handrails or common facilities according to their use;
  • The obligation not to share or touch other people’s office supplies, such as ballpoint pens, notepads, keyboards, telephones, shredders or screens;
  • Responsibility for cleaning the computer’s HDMI or VGA connections before passing it on to the next person for use during presentations;
  • Keeping a diary to record your cleaning responsibilities so that you can remember them. Placing reminders on calendars is the easiest way for employees to fulfill their cleaning responsibilities.
Keep cleaning records

Keeping cleaning records has always been a fundamental health and safety requirement. Most companies have included such records in their safety manual, but for some companies, it was not yet a priority. After the COVID-19 pandemic, cleaning records will be essential in determining which areas need to be cleaned up as a priority. Working with your in-house cleaning team and contract cleaning specialists is essential to keeping proper and accurate records. It will also be a useful tool for your office manager to assess new ordering times for cleaning and janitorial supplies as usage increases.

By following the return to work process one step at a time, you can ensure that you have a comprehensive plan in place and reassure employees of their safety. Returning to a clean, healthy office will ease the return to work transition and reduce productivity disruption. If you have any questions or need help in any area, talk to your Safety and Maintenance partners, who can help with their in-depth industry knowledge. Understanding the measures adopted by other companies in your industry will help reassure you that you are sufficiently prepared.


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