As vaccination numbers tick up and Covid-19 cases drop, employees will start returning to the office. However, the pandemic transformed expectations when it comes to work. Your employees want to come back to a different type of office—one that’s demonstrably clean and safe.
If your business is sending employees back to their desks, there are some steps you can take to make them feel comfortable. These tips will help your leaders create a safe office environment for returning employees.
As employees transition from remote work, a clean office environment will help them feel at ease. And this goes beyond general tidying. Sanitizing shared surfaces should become a daily practice.
Wipe down surfaces like door handles, conference tables and kitchen counters frequently throughout the day. Schedule daily bathroom cleanings (or more often if needed). It’s also worth keeping extra sanitizing wipes around the office so employees can wipe down surfaces as needed.
You can also steam clean hard floors, shampoo carpets, and clean furniture upholstery to kill germs and freshen the office space. These steps will ensure cleanliness as well as employee peace of mind.
Rework the Layout
Physical distancing has become the norm, so employees might not be keen to crowd into the office right away. Spacing out employees might take some creativity, but you can create distance by reworking your office layout.
Put at least six feet of space between desks when possible. And when it’s not possible? Partitions can be a great solution. Maintaining distance between employees can also involve limiting the headcount at meetings or even sticking to virtual platforms for now.
Offer Hybrid Work Options
Remember, returning to the office needn’t be an all-or-nothing proposition. Many companies are adopting flexible work cultures as a new model. In a hybrid setup, employees can choose to come into the office or work from home, depending on the day of the week. This keeps fewer people in the office, while helping employees transition to an in-person model at their own pace.
Not sure whether a hybrid model would work at your company? Ask your employees. They likely have some thoughts about what type of work environment would make them most comfortable and productive.
While ventilation alone won’t prevent the spread of Covid and other viruses, it can certainly be part of maintaining a more hygienic office. There are a few steps you can take to improve ventilation in your office before employees return.
First, make sure that your HVAC systems are clean and up to date. An HVAC professional can inspect your system and change filters if necessary. It’s also wise to schedule duct cleaning before ending remote work. Consider using HEPA air filters to keep the air clean throughout the office.
Revisit Your Sick Leave Policy
Even the cleanest offices can’t defend themselves against the main spreader of viruses: people.
It was once normal to go to work with the sniffles. Employees often felt—or were made to feel—that they were shirking if they stayed home with “just a cold.” However, the pandemic has changed our awareness of viruses. If an employee is sick at the office, they might well spread their virus to the rest of your staff.
A generous sick leave policy will help keep your employees safe and comfortable at work. Encourage employees to stay home when they’re feeling ill. If you implement a hybrid work model, employees can also work from home if they’re nursing a cold but otherwise feel up to it. When it comes to maintaining a healthy workforce, it’s typically best to err on the side of caution.
Minimize Client Visits
As employees return to the office, consider keeping visitors to a minimum. You may have clients or partners who are eager to pay your office a visit. Nevertheless, you’ll likely want to keep these meetings virtual as your workforce adapts to in-person work. Your employees and leaders are working to keep the office clean and safe, and outside visitors could make this more challenging.
If you have certain client meetings that must happen in person, put restrictions in place. Some businesses might require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for visiting clients and vendors. You can also require visitors to wear face coverings and maintain physical distance. Be sure to have these policies in place before transitioning to in-person work.
Implement Health Screenings
Daily health screenings were a staple for businesses operating during the pandemic, and these tools could help your office as well. Employees might have to fill out a short survey about their current symptoms (or lack thereof), perhaps through a company app. You might also take employee temperatures as they walk through the door.
Today’s health screening tools provide a discreet and efficient way to monitor symptoms, so you can send symptomatic staff home. Continued vigilance against the virus will keep your office reopening from going off the rails.
The Covid-19 pandemic provided many key lessons for today’s workforce. One of the most valuable? That your people are your most essential resource. Keeping your employees healthy is critical for ongoing operations. The more you can do to facilitate a stress-free return to the office, the better.