Reopening Your Office Safely

It’s now been several months that you’ve been working from home and I’m sure, like myself, you’re starting to get a little stir-crazy and could really use a change of scenery.

Going into the office is looking more and more enticing as each day passes and as we continue to work through this pandemic, some office buildings are starting to gradually open back up. So what does your company need to do to make it safe for you to re-enter the office building?

Before employees start to come back to the office, each company will need to create an environment where their employees feel safe to return. Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to this virus, social distancing, and social interactions so it’s important to make each employee feel comfortable when returning to the office. And, if some don’t feel comfortable, allow them to continue to work remotely.

As you’ve probably already experienced at a grocery or retail store, entrances and exits have been cut down to only one or two doors. Limiting points of entry and exit is a great way to promote social distancing as well as reduce the number of surfaces that are touched. Choose a main door in your office building that makes sense for your entrance and exit that all employees will use, and make sure it is clearly marked. Once the main entrance/exit is identified, all other entryways should be clearly marked that they are no longer in use and should be locked if possible.

Once an employee enters the building through the newly marked doors, the next step should be a temperature check. This ensures that if anyone has a fever, they can leave the building right away before they’ve made it past the lobby. Health and safety of your employees should be your number 1 priority, and the temperature check will ensure that someone with a fever or showing other signs of COVID-19 will not get into the main part of the building to potentially spread the virus.
Thermometer

Now that the employee is showing no signs of a fever, it’s time to get them back to their desk! But first they need to choose a wristband to wear. As mentioned earlier, each person has their own comfort levels with social distancing and social interactions so it’s important that each employee can express this. A great way for employees to do this silently is through wearing wristbands. Each employee should be given the choice of either a green, yellow, or red wristband:

Wristbands
  • Red shows that this person is not comfortable with close contact and wants to keep a distance of at least 6 feet apart.
  • Yellow shows that someone is cautious and still wants to social distance, but is ok with an “elbow greeting”.
  • Green shows that a person is comfortable with close contact of handshakes or high-fives.
Wristbands

This is an easy way for each employee to show what they are comfortable with, without having to express it verbally to every person they encounter.

After a person enters the building, passes their temperature check and has chosen a colored wristband… it’s now time for them to get back to their desk and start working! Your office should have a plan for social distancing on each floor or section of the building.

The desks over here at W.B. Mason are set up in cubes that hold 4 people each. Keeping with social distancing, having a cube at full capacity will not work, but having 2 people working in a cube at a time will! A schedule should be created where a specific number of people come into the office at a time. In most cases, all employees won’t be able to come into the office at one time and be able to stay 6 feet apart from each other, so setting up a schedule where they can come into the office anywhere from 1 to 3 days a week will ensure there is not an overflow of people on the same floor. Learn more tips on how to create social distancing within your building.

The specific days you are scheduled to go in don’t always need to be set in stone. Each team should come up with their own system and mix up the team members that come in each day to help foster more creative work. But make sure to do this carefully and communicate with the rest of the company in order to not exceed any gathering limits.

As a reminder, hopefully you have now heard this enough already, hand sanitizer should be placed near all highly trafficked areas – staircases, elevators, and the main entrances and exits of each floor. Floor tape should be used to show the direction of traffic throughout the building. This will limit the number of employees that come in contact with each other. Signs should be placed on each floor regarding social distancing and hand hygiene and of course masks should be required to wear around the building until you are at your desk.

Keeping your employees safe and ensuring their comfortability is a must in order to get them back in the office. The office won’t look like it did before COVID-19 but with following the above tips you can find a routine for the new normal that works.

Sources

1. Carucci, Ron. “How to Prepare Yourself for a Return to the Office.” Harvard Business Review, 17 Aug. 2020, https://hbr.org/2020/07/how-to-prepare-yourself-for-a-return-to-the-office. Accessed 19 August 2020.

2. Handley, Lucy. “The 9-5 Day Is ‘out of the Question’: Here’s What Going Back to Work in an Office Will Be Like.” CNBC, CNBC, 13 July 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/13/what-going-back-to-work-in-an-office-will-be-like-after-lockdown.html. Accessed 19 August 2020.

3. “Returning to Work.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Aug. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/returning-to-work.html. Accessed 19 August 2020.