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COVID-19 Return to the Office Guide and Safety Tips

U.S. Air Force client system technicians from the 17 Communications Squadron review work request tickets for computers around base while maintaining a social distance in the COMM building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, April 22, 2020. The Airmen fixed and solved computer issues on-site and in the field, which instilinged mission readiness while adhering to the Center of Disease Control guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Abbey Rieves)

For the last several months, offices around the US have been shut down due to keep employees safe from the spread of COVID-19. Now, many cities and states are starting to lift their stay-at-home orders as case numbers go down. For many offices, this means it’s time to get back to work, but it’s important to do so safely. While COVID-19 cases are down in many areas, the disease has not been eradicated, and can still cause serious health problems. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to keep your employees and clients safe when working in your Clifton Park office

Review your City and State Guidelines carefully prior to Opening. 

As the economy is reopening, local and regional governments have put out strict, clear guidelines for going back to work. It’s crucial that you follow these guidelines at your office – a failure to comply could not only get your employees sick but could also result in your workplace getting shut down by the government. Before you open up, read through these guidelines carefully and clarify which safety measures need to be taken. Do workers need to wear masks? Should you operate at less than full capacity? It’s worth taking an extra few days to open to make sure you’re really clear on all of the requirements that need to be met. Now is also a great time to review your OSHA guidelines and other best practices for workplace safety. 

Give Employees the Flexibility they need to take care of themselves. 

When reopening your office, your first consideration should be your employees’ health. The first step should be establishing a robust sick leave policy so that employees don’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck. Make sure employees know that they can take time off or work from home if they feel even the slightest bit sick. Although sick leave can be expensive up front, it will likely save your company money in the long run. This is because it can prevent a large outbreak that would dramatically hinder your company’s productivity. 

You should also make sure you have a plan in place to protect workers who are older or immunocompromised.  Ask them about their comfort levels, and let those who can work remotely continue to do so. This not only helps those who are most at risk stay safe, but it also gives people the flexibility they need to take care of their kids or assist older family members who may have been affected by COVID-19. If it is not possible to work from home, start with a staggered opening. You can do this by strategically dividing your team into two or three groups, and having each group come in only on certain days. 

Make sure Employees are Educated on COVID-19. 

Before your team starts working again, it’s important to make sure they are fully informed about COVID-19 and how it spreads. When employees are fully aware of the signs and symptoms they need to watch for, they will be less likely to contract the disease or spread it to others. Discourage handshakes and hugs, and avoid all unnecessary travel, as this can help to reduce the spread as well. You should also encourage or even require your employees to wash their hands at various points throughout the day. These seemingly small changes can make a big difference when it comes to fighting the spread of the coronavirus. 

Encourage Employees to get tested regularly. 

To make sure your workplace continually stays healthy, it’s very important that employees are regularly tested for COVID. Since many cases are asymptomatic, it’s very difficult to know for sure if someone has the virus without getting a test. Make sure your employees know where the nearest testing center is and how to schedule a test. You should also give your employees time off to go get tested safely. Depending on the industry you are in, you may even choose to mandate that employees get tested on a regular basis. 

Make it easy for Employees to maintain their distance. 

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to ensure that employees can keep a distance of at least six feet from each other while at work. This may require some reconfiguring of your office space. Move desks away from each other and use tape to create clear walkways throughout the office. You may also want to put up shields around each employee’s individual workspace, and encourage employees to wear masks when they do have to be near each other. Since COVID-19 transmits through the tiny water droplets we exhale, these measures can help to prevent the spread. 

Implement a strict Cleaning Schedule. 

One of the most important parts of returning to the office safely is making sure that your surfaces stay clean. Shared surfaces like door handles and communal tables should be cleaned as frequently as possible. It’s also important to clean tools like phones and computers and avoid sharing them with other employees whenever possible. Keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes readily available throughout the office to facilitate this process. You should also talk to your office rentals landlord to see how they are approaching the sanitation process. 

Since COVID-19 presents very real health risks, it’s very important that offices put safety measures in place before reopening. It’s worth investing extra time and energy to educate your employees and keep your space clean – this will allow you to go back to work while also staying healthy.