In the span of just a few short months, our world’s reality has completely flipped upside down. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage countries worldwide, businesses across nearly every industry have had to adjust their workplace processes and procedures.
During this challenging time, many companies and organizations have opted to allow employees to work from home. However, many essential operations remain open, including some office spaces, where workers are put at risk to contract COVID-19 through clients, customers, and each other. For offices that require daily face to face interaction during this deadly pandemic, it is essential to adapt to the “new normal” to keep operations running smoothly and safely.
Adapting To the “New Normal” in the Workplace
As more and more businesses, offices, and other establishments reopen their doors to employees and the public, they have to adapt to new processes to accommodate necessary safety precautions. Items like masks, plexiglass shields, and hand sanitizer stands are becoming commonplace in everyday life.
It is essential that office managers educate employees and apply effective safety strategies to protect said employees and their families from being infected. However, it’s important to remember that no matter how sanitary you believe your office space is, there is always a risk of transmission in enclosed areas like the workplace.
5 Easy Ways To Make Your Office Safe During the Pandemic
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends that office building employers review their COVID-19 guidelines for office spaces and implement stringent safety procedures for employees to follow to prevent a possible infection or outbreak within the office space. While the CDC’s extensive document regarding office space safety may seem overwhelming, there are a few key components that are easy to implement quickly and effectively.
1. Provide Infection Control Solutions
First and foremost, re-opening offices need to invest in adequate infection control solutions such as hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, thermometers, disposable masks, and sanitizing sprays or wipes. Place hand sanitizer and masks in easily accessible areas and adequate signage throughout the office to encourage employees to practice thorough handwashing and personal hygiene. Create a schedule for workers to clean up or consult a professional cleaning service to ensure that the space’s regular sanitization occurs.
2. Modify Seating Arrangements
To follow social distancing guidelines in office spaces set by OSHA and the CDC, one of the most straightforward solutions is to modify seating arrangements. Ensure that employees sit at least six feet apart by moving desks or arranging employees in every other cubicle. Office managers can also utilize various locations throughout the building to accommodate employees while maintaining six feet between them. Many areas inside an office can surprisingly temporarily house an employee, including:
- Break rooms
- Conference rooms
- Outdoor spaces
One tactic that many facilities like grocery stores and retail store locations utilize is visible signage and safety markers. Employers can use tape to cordon off areas of the office they don’t wish employees to access, section off desks, or create a flowing walkway through the building to minimize contact between personnel.
3. Work in Shifts
Another way to adapt your office space to be COVID-19 safe is to create teams of workers that come in during different shifts. For example, half of all employees might work from home for two weeks, while the other half goes into the office. After the two weeks is up, the “teams” switch off. Although this safety tactic requires more planning, communication channels, and adequate management, it potentially reduces the chances of virus communication among employees and their families.
4. Make a Plan in Case of Contamination
Another significant component of COVID-19 safety precautions is contact tracing. Contact tracing is a tactic used to slow the spread of communicable diseases and ensures that anyone who comes in contact with your office space can be notified if an outbreak or potential contamination occurs in your company. Employ contact tracing efforts, especially if you have frequent visitors or clients entering your location. Take note of all the unique visitors to your office just in case.
Offices should also encourage employees to stay home and monitor their symptoms if they feel sick or have possibly contacted a contaminated individual. Establish open communication lines with employees, so they are comfortable reaching out to upper management if they feel symptoms of the virus coming on. Allow employees to self-isolate or quarantine for two weeks if necessary. Implement procedures for workers to re-enter the workplace after self-isolation as well.
5. Invest in Sneeze Guards
One of the most coveted contraptions to come out of the COVID-19 disaster is sneeze guards. Made out of acrylic plexiglass and placed between desks and workspaces or at a reception area, sneeze guards are a fantastic way to keep your employees’ minds at ease during the pandemic. There are even options available specifically for offices to fit cubicles with plexiglass extenders. Sneeze guards have a broad range of uses in other industries, including:
- Retail stores
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Healthcare facilities
Implementing sneeze guards throughout an office gives the work environment an added layer of protection. Sneeze guards create a shield to block the spread of germs and bacteria between office workers. The plexiglass barrier limits the transmission of bodily fluids like saliva and mucus from worker to worker. Just as the name implies, sneeze guards stop sniffling, sneezing employees from getting other individuals sick.
Sneeze guard barriers are exceptionally beneficial in office areas with high traffic, frequent visitors, or inadequate space for social distancing. Adding sneeze guards to your office space will give your company’s workers, clients, and customers peace of mind when entering the office area.
As office workers return to communal working spaces, employers must adapt to a new normal to create a healthy and sanitary work environment. Ensure workplace wellbeing not just by providing hand sanitizer and masks, but effectively communicating with staff verbally and through signage and e-mails, so they feel comfortable calling in sick if they have to.
Employing safety strategies in office spaces is an effective way to minimize the transmission of COVID-19, but it is not a perfect solution. While products like sneeze guard panels offer strong protection for people in an array of industries, office managers should continue to adapt their processes and assess risks depending on local recommendations and the current conditions in the community. Assess the vulnerability of your office workers and allow them to work from home if necessary.
As employers worldwide continue to navigate this intense public health crisis, social distancing, sanitizing stations, and sneeze guards have become the norm for office workers everywhere. If you can’t work from home, be proactive about protecting your office workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.