Reopening the workplace safely in the new normal

With lockdown restrictions beginning to lift, businesses around India are being faced with challenging questions regarding new practices and policies for office reopening. But before they open their doors to employees and customers again, organizations have to make sure that their workplace is safe so that it can be occupied with guided supervision. 

As per an Ipsos survey, 54 percent of people are concerned about the safety of returning to work. Therefore, the primordial objective is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during operations and maintain healthy indoor environment quality levels before reopening. But in order to achieve that, incorporating new and revised processes into normal company practices is of primary importance.

Here are six readiness essentials that we recommend for reopening the workplace safely.

  1. Prepare the building
    Perform a detailed review of the configuration of your workplace and devise regular cleaning plans in areas of high footfall. Review floor plans and remove or reconfigure seats, furniture and workstations as needed to preserve recommended physical distancing in accordance with guidelines. Work with your facility managers to carry out pre-return inspections for all employees returning to their desks. Perform a thorough maintenance check and repair operations of the HVAC systems in the building and ensure optimal operations of all mechanicals.
  2. Prepare the workforce
    In such uncertain times, it is important to adopt a communication policy that emphasizes transparency. Communicate to your employees what is being done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., disinfection routine, health policies for staff, and safety measures in place). To the extent possible, disperse employees to reduce their concentration. Reconfigure workstations so that employees do not face each other, or establish partitions if facing each other cannot be avoided. 
  3. Control access
    Integrate temperature checks at entry points as a necessary protocol for all employees, visitors and customers. Consider adding shifts to the workday to limit the number of people working together. If possible, eliminate reception seating areas and request guests to call and inform in advance or install a plastic partition at the reception area. As a safety measure, consider re-occupying non-used building space to provide more physical distance between employees.
  4. Create a social distancing plan
    Work on decreasing density in places or tasks that require large amounts of people to be in one area. Design workflows to reduce or eliminate crowding in the same area. Regulate the use of common areas with clear signage (including maximum occupancy) and physical distancing measures in accordance with public health guidelines. If in-person meetings are essential, consider limiting meetings to 10 people or less depending on local, state, and federal guidelines. 
  5. Reduce touchpoints and increase cleaning
    You can plan to temporarily replace amenities that are handled with high contact frequency, such as water coolers, coffee makers, and bulk snacks and replace them with alternatives like touchless water dispensers. Consider using signage to deter use of such amenities. If vending machines are used, ask employees to wipe it with disinfectants after each use. Common areas should be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis at minimum. Ensure disinfection protocols follow product instructions for application and contact time and use a checklist or audit system to track when and how cleaning is conducted. 
  6. Communicate for confidence
    In these unprecedented times, it is important to recognize the fear of returning to work among employees. Aspects such as communication, training, and employee comfort should be taken into account when developing the reopening plan. Listen and survey the satisfaction level of employees by establishing formal and informal routes of communication to express concerns, questions, comments and feedback.  Platforms for communicating with employees could include emails, texts, automated phone calls, texts, websites, and signage. 

With the world of business growing increasingly volatile, only the companies that have accounted for and developed capabilities to tackle unpredictability are most likely to thrive. As markets and economies continue to change rapidly, only a small group of resilient companies that work closely with their facility management providers to develop new workplace strategies will be able to capitalize on the opportunity to grow stronger in the face of uncertainty. During the transition from the pandemic season to the post-COVID era, companies must focus on outcomes that will deliver the most value in the shortest time, such as developing agile business operations and boosting employee productivity.

To learn how facility management professionals can help your business to reopen safely, please contact our expert team at CLR Services.

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