Like many business owners, you’ve had to get creative with your day-to-day operations in the wake of COVID-19. And while you’ve been able to weather the storm, you’re eager to go back to the way things were.
Sadly, until a vaccine is created, there is no going back to the way things were. The shutdown will eventually end, and people will re-enter the workforce, but everything will be different. It has to be different in order to protect your employees and prevent another forced shutdown.
But don’t lose heart! Different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Matter of fact, COVID-19 has tested the resolve of many companies and left them stronger and more prepared for future economic issues. Look at this time as a learning and growing period.
In this post we’ll explore ways you can prepare your office for the return to the workforce after COVID-19.
Budget for an improved air filtration system
One of the best things you can do to ensure the safety of your employees is improve the air filtration system in your office. Office buildings are notoriously poorly ventilated, recirculating what’s already inside (a cocktail of carbon dioxide, chemicals from building materials, and airborne pathogens) and bringing in very little fresh air. Because the COVID-19 virus can float for three hours in the air, improving this neglected detail can go a long way in ensuring the safety of your entire office.
In a recent statement, Prashant Kumar, director of GCARE said that “An improved indoor ventilation is an important step that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection […] More must be done to recognize and understand airborne transmission of COVID-19 and similar viruses, to minimize the build-up of virus-laden air in places typically containing high densities of people.”
Re-organize office to encourage social distancing
Just because the shutdown is over doesn’t mean you should stop social distancing. Space desks 6 ft feet apart and remove a few of the chairs from conference rooms to limit the amount of people who can be in there at one time.
Another way businesses are preparing their office, is by installing fiber glass around cubicles. This helps prevent the spread of the virus while still allowing for effective communication.
Develop new safety protocols
These protocols will vary from office to office but there are a few things every office should incorporate into their day-to-day operations:
– Keep doorways between departments and offices open
– Make masks mandatory when leaving office/cubicle
– Install hands-free sanitizer dispensers around the office
– Get digital thermometers for the office
– Instruct employees to wipe down their desk before leaving
Be sure to allow for a learning curve. This will be new and awkward for everyone and might cause little disruptions here and there. A good way to prepare your employees for the changes, is to send out an email telling them what to expect and the new requirements.
This email will work in two ways. One, it will help your employees process the new changes and prepare to meet them. Two, it will help alleviate the fear associated with returning to the workplace by detailing the efforts your company is making to protect them.
It won’t be “business as usual” for some time, at least you’ll be getting back to business.
Allow employees to work from home part of the time
Last but not least, allow your employees to continue working from home from time to time. You might find this necessary after you space out the desks in your office and find the workspace limited. Rotate the on-site employees with the remote employees so there’s never too many people in the office at one time.
Your employees have proved their competence working remotely these last few weeks, so let this continue on a rotating schedule.
Or, slowly phase your employees back into the office in batches. Maybe allow the marketing apartment to return the first week and then two weeks after that (or more) phase in another department until everyone is back in the office.
Some companies are making the return to the workplace optional, allowing employees to continue working from home until they feel comfortable returning. As the business owner, it’s your decision as to how to introduce your employees back into the workplace.
In your excitement to get your office back together, don’t forget to take steps to ensure safety and efficiency. But most of all…be patient. Give yourself and your employees time to adjust to the changes so the transition is as smooth as possible.
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