Due to changing health and safety regulations across the United States and the world, many people and businesses are considering the challenges of going back to work at their office or place of business. In some cases, entire workforces could return to their place of business under conditions quite different from when they left. Others — perhaps due to increased productivity, cost savings, or improved work-life balance from work-from-home arrangements — may continue working under a new structure.
Whatever the reopening of the workplace looks like for you, your new reality probably contains some or all of the following elements.
Before staff return 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 supplies. It can also be a good time to determine whether the building equipment is still functioning properly and adequately. Since the building may have been shut down with little warning, consider a full physical inspection of its operating equipment and services.
In reopening businesses, changes will likely be made 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 and 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:
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).
Keep Facilities Clean and Reduce Touch Points
While some workplace objects will inevitably be touched, you can make an effort to mitigate the spread of germs. Most businesses will want to give attention to cleaning and sanitizing facilities and reducing touch points. Things to consider are your break room appliances, time clock, copy machine, or any other components that employees can access throughout the day. Touch point fixes could include:
Installing movement detectors or voice command functions to active light switches.
Changing doors to push doors that can be opened without touching a handle.
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 this is a viable way to work, some businesses may decide to continue them.
Since work-from-home arrangements may become a permanent or semi-permanent feature of companies’ work cultures, attention may now be given to the essentials needed to set up a home office. Ideally, it 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 may make it difficult to fit the same numbers in the same spaces. In-person meetings may give way to the increasing use of virtual meetings.
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.
About the Author
Peter Giffen is a writer and editor who specializes in business and technology.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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