Many people and businesses are beginning to think about the challenges of getting back to work. In some cases, entire workforces could return to their place of business but under conditions quite different from when they left. Others – perhaps due to found productivity, cost savings, or work-life balance in working at home – might continue the arrangement, either wholly or partly.
Whatever the reopening of the workplace looks like for you, your new reality probably contains some or all of the elements of the following.
Before staff returns to a building that has been vacated for a long time, a series of return checks may be needed to determine what can help make a safer environment for everyone.
This can include an inventory site review of cleaning chemicals, materials, and consumables. It can also be the time to determine if there is an adequate supply for new needs and if all equipment is in good repair. Since the building may have been shut down with little warning, consider a physical inspection of its operating equipment and services.
In reopening businesses, changes will likely be made in an attempt to focus on safety and cleanliness at work. Consider opening lines of communication early about new work protocols, addressing any questions or concerns workers may have, and perhaps providing virtual training in the protocols before they return to work.
Consider controlling access to your work facilities. Controlled access could include protocols for safety and facility maintenance as well as building reception, shipping/receiving, elevator, and visitor policies.
Businesses will likely want to put in place social distancing measures for the return to work. Consider the following:
- Traffic routing in the office.
- Workstation spacing.
- Separate open-plan offices with high partitions or plexiglass shields.
- Staggering employee arrival/departure times.
- Alternating days or weeks in office and working from home.
- Reducing space capacity (for example, remove some chairs from meeting and conference facilities).
- Limiting gathering in small rooms (convert these to single-use spaces).
Reduce Touch Points & Keep Facilities Clean
Most businesses will want to give attention to cleaning and sanitizing facilities and reducing touch points. Touch point fixes could include:
- Installing movement detectors or voice command functions to activate light switches.
- Removing nonessential doors and keeping doors open, if viable.
- Encouraging the use of personal mobile phones instead of conference phones.
- Providing cleaning supplies and instructions so employees can disinfect their own spaces and common areas.
- Reducing the use of shared equipment, such as printers and copiers.
- Securing supply storage and designating specific people to manage stock and distribute items.
The cleaning focus should be on increasing the frequency and thoroughness of sanitizing measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting facilities.
Many organizations have adopted remote work arrangements for their workforces. Having discovered that this is a viable way to work, some businesses may decide to continue them.
Since at-home work arrangements may become a permanent or semi-permanent feature of companies’ work cultures, attention may now be given to the essentials needed for set up of a home office. Ideally, they will be professionally furnished and lit, with all the technology, equipment, and supplies required for a seamless transition from the business office to the home office.
Even if many people return to work, self-imposed or state-imposed social distancing requirements will mean that it will be difficult to fit the same numbers in the same spaces. In-person meetings may give way to the increasing use of virtual meetings.
To make it easier for others to work remotely, businesses can retrofit meeting rooms with video conferencing and teleconferencing equipment, such as video cameras, mics, speakerphone systems, and more.
Returning to work is about embracing the new normal and taking steps to help everyone be safer and healthier as they help restart the engines of business.