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Returning to work: 5 tips for a safe office

As lockdown eases and more businesses return to work, running a safe office during COVID-19 comes with a new set of challenges.
Below, we build on government guidelines to list the things you should consider when returning to work, for both your office and your employees.
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Returning to work: 5 tips for a safe office

As lockdown eases and more businesses return to work, running a safe office during COVID-19 comes with a new set of challenges.
Below, we build on government guidelines to list the things you should consider when returning to work, for both your office and your employees.
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1). Conduct a thorough workplace risk assessment

The first step in getting back to work is knowing the pinch points your employees may have when working while observing social distancing laws.

The government have provided guides for a variety of sectors and WHO have issued comprehensive guidance on getting your workplace ready for COVID-19, but only you and your team will know your businesses’ specific challenges.

Think about all possible areas of your workflow where coronavirus could be a potential risk. Does your work involve travel? Is it customer facing? Is your office building big enough to support social distancing for all of your workers?

Identifying these problems is the first step in coming up with solutions. If you’re having trouble, consult with your workers or trade unions for ideas.

2). Ensure hygiene procedures meet the highest standards

Your employees will most likely be familiar by now with correct handwashing guidance, but it is good practice to remind them with signposted graphics near hand wash stations such as toilets or the kitchen.

Furthermore, provide hand sanitiser around the workplace to increase the availability of handwashing facilities.

Speak to your cleaning team or service about their coronavirus procedures and arrange more frequent cleaning for busy areas of the office, prioritising communal contact points such as door handles.

3). Think about who needs to work in the office

If you have been in the fortunate position to remain operational during lockdown, then you may have seen your staff are able to stay productive while working from home.

If those staff can continue working from home, it will mean less traffic in the workplace and therefore fewer opportunities for any illnesses to spread.

Should your business have not been operating due to COVID-19, there may still be some members of staff who can work at home alongside necessary office staff.

Think about who needs access to your businesses’ facilities and how roles can be adapted to support working from home.

4). Maintain social distancing and reduce risk

Due to COVID-19, offices are going to go through several changes to operate safely.

There may be processes in your business where it’s not possible for employees to maintain a two-meter distance. In this case, it’s your job to mitigate the risks of this activity. The specifics of this would depend on your company, but key considerations include:

  • Is the activity necessary for your business to operate;
  • Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible;
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other;
  • Staggering arrival and departure times of your workforce.

5). Consult and inform your staff

Whether they have been working at home or furloughed, your staff will all have different feelings about going back to the office – a recent  CIPD survey shows that two in five people are anxious about returning to the workplace.

To overcome these fears, it’s important you clearly communicate to your staff the procedures you are taking to ensure their safety.

Where you have a number of options on how to minimise risk, consult your staff on what they think will be most effective. This way they will feel they have more agency over their safety and be aware of the measures you’re taking to prioritise it.

Remember, staying safe during this time is a team effort. Encourage your employees to:

  • Use hand sanitiser before entering the workplace (especially if they use public transport)
  • Work from home if they can
  • Go digital where possible and reduce contact through physical documents
  • Wash hands regularly
  • Bring their own food and drink utensils into the office

For more information and links to relevant guidance during lockdown:

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