As we start the new year, many companies are considering bringing employees back to the office for in-person interaction. Consequently, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, companies that were back to full capacity in person are considering a more flexible work environment to help keep employees safe. As expected, there is still concern over safety and continuing to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some employers are going as far as adopting a workplace health and safety plan. Before returning to full-capacity business operations, here are some things to consider before choosing to reopen:
Creating an office reopening plan will help minimize the risk employees will assume as they return to work while also clarifying company expectations and flexibility measures. Here are some suggestions as you draft your own office reopening plan:
The CDC recommends that each workplace conducts a hazard assessment to identify where the potential exposure risks lie. Reducing the risk of transmission in these areas will help maintain safety for everyone. Anywhere where employees could be in close contact with each other such as break rooms, conference rooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, check-in areas, lobbies, and entrances/exits are all possible places for virus transmission.
The CDC also recommends that adults be vaccinated. Some companies are requiring vaccinations before coming back to work as well. Businesses must make their vaccine mandates or recommendations clear as they reopen the office.
After identifying these potential workplace risks, develop efficient methods for your office members to ensure safe social distancing. If necessary, change or modify seating, furniture, and workstations to keep six feet between employees where possible. Implementing other controls, such as transparent shields or other physical barriers where social distancing is not feasible, can also help with transmission. In common areas, utilize signs or other visual cues to show where employees should stand when a physical barrier is not present. Lastly, consider taking steps to improve ventilation within the building.
Implementing some sort of health check or screening can also help minimize the risks of contracting COVID-19. Taking temperatures, asking employees to perform self-checks, and asking if team members are displaying any symptoms of the virus can help mitigate risk.
Lastly, effectively communicating the office reopening plan will be essential to its overall success. Addressing any concerns team members may have while also informing everyone about what their responsibilities will be to keep everyone safe is key.
Many businesses that are reopening have found that adopting a flexible working model has been beneficial for their employees' production and safety. Flexible working models can include office hoteling where teams utilize a desk booking software like OfficeTogether to accommodate in-person and remote team members. Alternating days between which departments come into the office and which departments work from home will also help minimize the potential spread of the virus.
The CDC also encourages workers to wear a mask when they cannot socially distance themselves from other coworkers. This measure can keep respiratory droplets from reaching others. However, exceptions should be made for those who have trouble breathing.
In addition, consider reevaluating the company’s “Sick Day” policy. Employees should not have to choose between their livelihood and exposing others to a dangerous virus. Updating this policy will help keep sick individuals from coming into the office because they will not feel pressured to do so.
While we have seen a decrease in the number of COVID cases, the pandemic is not over. Though this information may not be brand new, we want to remind you of its importance; not all workers feel comfortable going back into the office just yet. So as you reopen offices, recognize that the virus is still a threat and can have an impact on the health of your employees. Taking safety precautions will help mitigate the risk, but truly recognizing the chance of exposure is still critical. Encouraging employees to stay home if they are displaying symptoms and encouraging them to quarantine if testing positive for COVID will help keep the rest of the office safe.
Bring teams together in a hybrid office where employees feel safe and productive. Learn more about OfficeTogether and how its services can better your company moving into 2022.