Perfect Ways to Prepare The Office for a Post-COVID Environment
Different regions in the world have started lifting lockdowns and easing quarantine measures after almost six months of complete shutdown. Different sectors have begun to open gradually, some even allowing workers back in their offices.
But as much as these new developments are welcome, people must remember that coronavirus is still around, and if we aren’t careful, the world might see a second wave of the outbreak. That is scary and jarring to even think about. We, therefore, have a responsibility to review our best practices and etiquette to make workplaces safe as we return to work after the long COVID-19 break. With that in mind, what can employers and managers do to ensure that offices are ready for the post-pandemic environment?
1. Install handwashing facilities
Workplaces need to have handwashing facilities that are easily accessible at all times. Traditionally, hand washing facilities in offices were located in the washrooms and dining areas. Post-coronavirus offices will need to install these facilities within working areas, at entrances, and in parking areas. Each handwashing station needs to have hot and cold running water, paper towels with disposal facilities, soap or cleaning agents, disinfectants, and hot air dryers, among other necessities. For workplaces that need shower facilities, especially where workers load/unload items to trucks, things that could be dirty and virus-ridden, bathroom remodeling will be necessary to ensure that there is enough room for everybody. Install at least one shower room for every ten workers to prevent cases of overcrowding.
2. Adjust HVAC systems
Although scientists are still researching the role that HVAC systems could potentially play in spreading coronavirus in closed places, employers cannot afford to take any chances with this highly contagious coronavirus. If you can install/use operable windows, maybe you should use them until it is safe to use the air conditioner again. You can also consider investing infiltration and sanitation methods that can filter virus particles.
3. Install social-distancing features
If your office can still run smoothly with some of the employees working remotely, by all means, let them work from home so that only workers who need to be in the office are in the office at any one given time. If you have space to separate workstations, or if you have enough land to expand your floor space, this is the best time to invest in office remodeling. If you don’t have enough space for any of that, consider installing physical barriers, e.g., plexiglass barriers, to separate employees from each other and in-person clients. Glass barriers are also significant because they don’t hinder employees from socializing and collaborating.
4. Retrain employees
Train your workers on the importance of wearing masks and maintaining personal hygiene and social distance at work. Note that as much as that may seem like general knowledge or self-explanatory, the excitement of being able to leave home and interact with colleagues after months of isolation can easily make employees forget all the COVID-19 precautions they have learned over the months. Put up posters all over the office to remind employees what they need to do to stay safe. Also, train the employees on how to handle in-person customers without risking exposure, mainly how to serve customers satisfactorily and communicate effectively from 6 feet away, and how to manage customers who refuse to adhere to the set safety rules. Train employees on how to walk around the office without bumping into each other or breaking the 6-feet social distance. Train them on why and how to clean their desk down every day.
5. Minimize virus spread risk at doors and other contact points
Minimize “contact points” as much as possible. For example, if your office can be secure without employees having to use fingerprint scanners, you can disable the scanners for now. Remove unnecessary doors and barriers that force people to touch surfaces. For secure locations that necessitate fingerprint scanning, doors to be shut, place hand sanitizer dispensers at the door so that people can sanitize their hands before and after touching the door.
Final words: Support employees’ mental health
Self-isolation and quarantining, the fear of losing jobs, and the fear of catching coronavirus during the pandemic must have taken a significant toll on the mental health of some of your employees. Some of them might be skeptical about coming back to the office. Such employees will exhibit emotions such as fear, anger, irritability, or confusion, and in some extreme cases, some will be anxious and depressed. Monitor the mental health of each employee and help where you can to alleviate their struggle. Create a mental health support group or hire a therapist to guide them through their mental wellness journey.