The novel coronavirus pandemic has taken over 200 countries and territories around the globe. It has affected people’s daily lives, national economies, and businesses.
This unpredictable event has forced companies to adjust their strategies and processes to continue their core business operations, such as selling uncooked food products for food businesses and offering essential goods delivery for delivery merchants.
Meanwhile, some companies have shifted to remote work for employees. Permitting employees to telecommute not only allows businesses to resume operations and recover from the loss but also protects everyone from contracting the virus.
Even when the pandemic blows over, there’s no “going back to normal”—the normal you know pre-COVID-19. Instead, the new normal involves observing social distancing rules in the office to ensure a safer working place.
From work schedules to riding the elevator, things will have to change. Below are some ways to help you prepare your workplace and move forward in this new normal post-COVID-19.
1. Regularly Sanitize and Clean the Workplace
Make sure that the workplaces and communal areas are always cleaned.
The virus can be transmitted by touching the surfaces where droplets from the cough of an infected person end up. Use a disinfectant to wipe the desks and tables, keyboards, telephones, and other surfaces clean.
Keep disinfectant wipes on each employees’ table to encourage them to sanitize their own workstations.
2. Reduce Touchpoints
Think about everything you touch in the office—door handles, light switches, coffee machine, refrigerator, elevator buttons, copier machine, water dispenser, desk, laptop, and the list goes on. What if someone infected has touched these surfaces?
Reducing contact points can help your employees and customers stay protected against contracting the virus. Here are some tips on how you can minimize contact on these surfaces:
- Switch from key locks or fingerprint scanners to keycards.
- Put a sanitizer dispenser next to the doors, light switches, and other common areas to encourage people to sanitize after touching surfaces.
- You can put paper towels beside the doors for people to use as a barrier when they need to touch door handles.
- Consider switching to motion-activated or smart switches for your lights. Likewise, think about using automatic door handles.
3. Rearrange Your Office Furniture
Your urgency to have your employees return to bring your employees back in the office as soon as possible requires you to retrofit the workplace in compliance with the current health guidelines, which includes rearranging your office furniture with social distancing protocols in mind.
Your employees’ desks must be spaced six feet apart from one another. You can remove unnecessary furniture pieces or decor to create more space. If possible, install visual design cues to remind employees about the 6-foot rule.
You may also enforce rules to keep workers from making unnecessary contact with other workers, such as one-way traffic and distributing supplies in each work area.
4. Enforce Capacity Policies
The fewer people there are in the workplace, the easier it is to practice social distancing rules.
You can set up schedules for each team on which days they are allowed to come to work. This is to impose a capacity limit and have a mix of on-site and remote work to restrict the number of employees in the office.
Moreover, activities like town hall meetings and engagement activities, which are usually held in communal spaces, should instead be done online via video conferencing to comply with health and safety policies.
5. Turn the Reception Area Into a Decontamination Lounge
Pre-coronavirus, a lot of offices have a reception area where employees welcome clients, customers, and other visitors.
They can sit and refresh with a drink first while waiting for the person they’re scheduled to meet with. While reception areas are commonplace and inviting, it may not be ideal in a post-COVID world.
Post-pandemic, the reception area can be converted into a decontamination lounge where visitors should first go for safety procedures. This should include taking their temperatures at the door, allotting a small area for handwashing, offering masks at a designation station, and even taking off shoes and changing into lounge slippers before entering the office.
6. Implement Social Distancing Rules
Aside from disseminating posters, you can also install them around the workplace or building to remind employees to maintain at least 6 feet distance from other people, customers, clients, and visitors.
If your business involves dealing with clients or customers face-to-face, consider placing partitions on the cubicles or tables. If you have an on-site cafeteria and serve food, limit the cafeteria’s capacity, as well as break room areas.
7. Promote Proper Hygiene
Naturally, it’s crucial to enforce property hygiene standards. Provide your employees with facilities to ensure that they abide by this rule, such as sanitation areas in prominent places. Also, ensure that your wash areas are complete with soap and water, tissues, hand dryers, and a poster on proper handwashing and how effective it is in killing the virus.
You can also distribute face masks or face shields and enforce the employees, contractors, customers, and visitors to wear them.
8. Know What to Do When an Employee Is Sick
In pre-COVID-19, employees feel compelled to come to work and do their jobs to prove that they are hardworking. With the threat of a virus today and how it starts with flu-like symptoms, businesses should be stricter about sick people coming to the office.
When an employee feels sick or has flu or cold, instruct them to stay or work at home, though they may also choose not to, depending on the severity of their condition.
Make clear to employees who they can contact if they can’t come to work.
9. Rethink Meetings and Business Travel
The pandemic has encouraged businesses to learn to prioritize better, which meant cutting back on unnecessary meetings or gatherings.
For necessary meetings, make sure to establish guidelines that enforce proper social distancing, limiting the number of people allowed in a room at a given time, and washing or sanitizing of hands first before entering the room. You may also encourage alternatives like virtual meetings.
Many places and countries still have travel restrictions. Review and revise your employee travel policies, and keep track of travel recommendations from the government to see whether or not it is safe or if business travel is necessary. As much as possible, limit or put on hold any travel plans for the meantime.
10. One-Way Hallways
For your office hallways and other foot traffic areas, implement a one-way policy. For instance, you may install signs or visual cues on your office floors or areas to show a one-way walking zone on one side and the opposite direction across the other side.
This way, you can avoid people from bumping on each other, allowing you to enforce strict physical distancing measures.
11. Consider Implementing a Staggered Schedule
For better physical distancing and safety measures, consider allowing employees to come back to work on a staggered schedule.
For instance, you can assign one group to work on Mondays and Wednesdays, another group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and another one on Fridays and Saturdays.
Alternatively, you can allow people only to work for half a day. For example, one group is scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 12nn, while another group will work from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The hour in between can be allotted for cleaning or disinfecting time. This enables proper social distancing and makes it easier to quarantine people if one person in a group becomes infected with the virus.
12. Educate Employees on Best Practices to Prevent Virus Transmission
Before you resume operation on-site, make sure to train your employees on best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Remind them to:
- Practice social distancing at all times and avoid large gatherings.
- Wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water for about 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching the entry points of the face, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Wear a face mask or face shield.
- Use a tissue to cover the mouth and nose, or the inside of the elbow, when coughing or sneezing.
- As much as possible, avoid touching common surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons, and handrails.
- Clean and disinfect phones, desks, chairs, and other works tools and equipment after use.
- Stay at home if sick or showing symptoms
It’s crucial to keep up-to-date and communicate local and state updates and guidelines to your employees as the COVID-19 situation develops. This helps in mitigating their anxieties and confusion.
Summing It Up
In the post-COVID-19 era, you must make considerations and decisions to help your business operate most effectively. Moreover, your employees will trust you more when they feel assured that you have prepared a safer workplace and established proper working guidelines for them.
Adapting the changes above, creating a creative and physical distancing-friendly work environment for your employees (as well as clients, customers, and visitors), and simple precautions and warnings will keep your workers safe. The sooner you accept, prepare for, and adjust to the new normal, the higher your chances to thrive are.
About the Author:
Regina del Rosario is from Booth and Partners. She has a solid background in conducting interviews with multiple candidates to identify the one with the most potential. She has hired over 100 applicants for positions in dozens of industries and campaigns, at levels ranging from interns to upper-level management.