When it’s time for employees to return to work, be sure the workplace is safe, encourage good hygiene, update policies and procedures, and more!
In some ways, it’s a treacherous time. On the one hand, many of us are longing to get back to the normality of work and eating out, shopping, haircuts, and hanging out. On the other hand, the death toll from the COVID-19 virus remains high and still climbing. So, as your employees come back to work, we have a new normal that should include particular attention to hygiene and social distancing. Here’s what employers need to know to keep their employees safe.
Start with Defining the New Normal
Things have changed, and so should your company’s policies, procedures, and way of doing business. It’s unlikely that your sick leave policy takes into account the possibility of prolonged illness due to the coronavirus. Or, what about quarantine and working remotely if someone tests positive for the virus? Do you offer leave or other supportive measures for valuable workers who may need to care for a loved one with COVID-19? Keep in mind that there will likely be another virus surge this winter, so it’s not like these issues will dissipate. Have you given thought to keeping as many of your workers remote as possible? How will your office workflows change if some (or all) employees go back to work? Before you bring back workers, deliberately go over these and other issues affecting your business, revise policies as needed, and make your team and customers aware of what will be your new normal.
Do a Deep Clean and Be Safe
Even if your office has been sitting empty, it still won’t hurt to bring in a company to give it a thorough and deep cleaning. Use high-end commercial cleaning supplies to disinfect every surface thoroughly. All common areas and individual workspaces should be thoroughly cleaned. Shampoo carpets and clean air ducts. Make sure the common areas like bathrooms, breakrooms, and the kitchen get a thorough airing out. Then let your employees know that you’ve done this to set their minds at ease. Talk with your employees before they come into the office again, so they understand the new rules for cleanliness, including:
- No handshaking.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Disinfect desks daily.
- Stay home if you feel ill.
- Taking your temperature before coming to work.
Set standards for office cleanliness going forward. Rearrange office furniture to allow for social distancing. Then stock the office with cleaning supplies, masks, paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, gloves, or anything else you need to keep things disinfected. Post signs on your doors with policies for disinfecting door handles, hand cleaning, or other new policies. Talk with your workers about self-cleaning of their workspaces every day. Reach out to your cleaning service to potentially increase their efforts. Finally, it’s a good idea for workers to wear masks when interacting with each other—just in case.
Remember that your workers may find it difficult to transition back into working in an office setting after having been remote for a few weeks. Make sure you offer some flexibility and understanding as employees transition back to our new normal. Consider offering remote work a couple of days weekly as the worker transitions back to the home office.
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