Employees are slowly heading back into the office, but this doesn’t mean that it’ll be business as usual. Instead, we’re facing an unfamiliar reality of what the “new normal” of life at work will look like during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps most importantly, there are critical safety factors that must be carefully considered. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to enact and enforce these measures to uphold the health of our team members, customers, and our community as a whole.
Here are four safety measures that every organization should strongly consider implementing as they prepare for people to return to the office. With great preparation, you can stay productive, efficient, and healthy.
1. Create a Safe, Strategic Work Environment
Like it or not, the crowded, open office isn’t coming back anytime soon. It’s imperative that company leaders create spaces that keep their team as protected as possible while we’re at risk for coronavirus. Doing this right means being fully prepared before employees arrive back at work.
Here are few easy ways to enhance your employee’s safety from coronavirus while in the office:
- Clear Signage: Signs about any new health-related rules or reminders will now likely be ubiquitous at every workplace. From reminders to wash our hands to instructions on using touch-free devices, make sure the instructions are clear, simple, and easy to read. If it’s too long, too small, or too complicated, people will just skip them altogether.
- Sick? Stay Home: Strongly encourage, if not require, all employees feeling under the weather or running a fever to stay home. A single infected employee can easily infect the rest of the team and may mean a total shutdown of your business.
- Limit Who Enters the Office: Only people who must enter the office should come in. If employees can work from home, consider allowing them to do so until things are safer. This alone would drastically reduce the possibility of spreading the virus. Fewer people within the office will also allow for more space between employees while working.
- Keep Them Separated: If possible, put at least one large, empty desk between every team member. Also, ensure that seating is individual and spread six feet apart or more in cafeterias, conference rooms, and other meeting rooms. If six feet of space between team members isn’t possible, look into installing dividers or partitions.
2. Make Social Distancing in Common Areas Easy
Most people know how important social distancing practices are. However, once back in the comfort of their offices, even the most diligent can find themselves settling into their old habits which can quickly lead to health risks.
That’s why we recommend going beyond announcements, emails, and signage to encourage social distance between others. You also need extra guidance that’ll make following these rules as easy and intuitive as possible.
For example, printers and copiers are popular spots for people to congregate as they wait for their print jobs—and catch up on workplace gossip or talk weekend plans. Office chatter is going to happen, and that’s okay as long it’s done safely!
Getting creative and going beyond signs and suggestions is one way to help your team follow safety protocol. Try creating small circles or lines using tape for people to stand on at appropriate distances in common areas.
This allows employees to see exactly where they can go without thinking twice. It also eliminates inaccurate estimations and shows when that area is too full to safely fit anyone else. When every mark is taken, no one else should enter.
The same concept can be used in the kitchen, at water coolers, by front desks, near the doorways of offices, etc.
3. Hand Sanitizer & Sanitation Stations Everywhere!
Studies from the CDC have shown that handwashing with soap is the most effective way to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19—and many other common bugs for that matter. Still, it’s typically not feasible to install sinks all over the office, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is still very effective against the virus.
In addition to encouraging regular hand washing, make sure hand sanitizer is easily accessible. Bottles spread around the office are great. But touchless sanitization stations are even better, especially near main entrances, bathrooms, kitchens, and high traffic areas. It just makes proper sanitation even more of a no-brainer.
You should also put well-stocked sanitizer wipes near equipment, products, or devices that are regularly touched by multiple employees including:
- Fax machines
- Water coolers
- Credit card machines
Unfortunately, no hand washing or sanitizer practice is perfect. If possible, try to limit which employees are actively touching anything. Also, consider using personal items like desktop printers, coffee machines, and water bottles—even if it’s just temporary.
4. Use Hands-Free Tech or Smart Phone Controls
Thanks to modern technology, we now have access to fantastic products that require no or very little use of our hands to use. Not only are they convenient—they’re also much safer as they minimize the chance of spreading germs and bacteria.
You’re likely already familiar with mainstream voice-command AI products like Siri or Alexa, even if they haven’t been used at the office yet. However, now is a great time to start integrating tools like these (though ensure they’re properly installed using current security best practices). With these tools, you can adjust things like TV screens, lighting, music, etc. using your voice.
Many programs also have apps that let people use a remote located on their own smartphone or tablet. This allows them to control everything from security systems to your office’s temperature from their personal devices rather than one typically used by multiple people.
Other great software and tools that enhances safety at work or makes working from home easier includes:
- PaperCut: This popular software program does more than cut print costs and boosts network security. It also offers a great swipe feature that allows users to release print jobs through a browser rather than pressing any screens or buttons.
- Xerox Gabi: Full disclosure—we’re obsessed with this new technology! Created with the AI-power from IBM’s Watson, the Xerox Gabi allows for the total voice-control of your office’s printers, copiers, fax machines, and multi-function devices. It’s cutting-edge and totally touch-free.
- PrinterLogic: If team members will be working remotely, don’t ignore the innovative power of PrinterLogic. By eliminating print servers altogether, employees can print to your office printers from anywhere while securely delivering those documents.
Want to learn more about creating the safest workplace environment possible for your team, your customers, and beyond? We know how to make your office will stay productive and secure. Just schedule a ten-minute, no-pressure call today, and we’ll discuss what we can do for your business.