How to Reintegrate Employees to the Office during the COVID-19 Epidemic

May 11, 2020

Having a Clean and Safe Environment for Them to Return to

To start, companies will need to adopt rigorous cleaning procedures for customers and employees. In response to COVID-19, the CDC has put together  recommendations for how cleaning should be done.

We can also expect to see increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including expanded use of gloves and face masks, becoming the norm in many customer-facing environments. Procedures for inbound and outbound materials will also need to change.

Maintain distancing 

While we’re all practicing distancing and trying to keep a 6-feet radius between ourselves and others when we purchase essential goods, the practice should be just as effective in the workplace. Some workplaces have the luxury of space, where business owners can modify workspaces to maintain distances of 6 feet. Although some moving may be required, along with the anticipated rewiring of workstations, the effort is worthwhile.

If employees work at a group station with connected tables, move around as many as possible to create spaces between. If the office setup was a grouping of small tables together to form a large work area in the center of the room, move the small tables to the walls. Employees could still be facing the center, with their back to the wall, but with more space in between. Avoid close back-to-back or face-to-face configurations.

Air it out

The CDC recommends opening windows or adjusting air conditioners to increase air circulation and flow. With spring finally arriving in most parts of the country, open the windows if your workspace allows. If not, keep fans running as much as possible. You can even encourage employees to keep small personal fans at their workspace, to  keep the air moving, and hopefully the germs, away from themselves.

Wear a mask

Americans are being asked to wear masks in public places to keep the transmission of respiratory droplets from spreading. Office policies could mirror those recommendations. While employees are in their office or cubicle, masks can be off, but ask that they wear them whenever they venture outside their workspace to keep others safe.

Minimize contact

Encourage employees to email, text, or call — rather than meet face-to-face — with coworkers. Remember, don’t shake hands. “I don’t think we should ever shake hands again,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.”

Hand washing

Employee hand washing has always been a priority, but in today’s environment it’s more critical than ever. The CDC has guidelines on how clean hands stop the spread of COVID-19. Employers should post these prominently in all restrooms:

Follow these 5 steps every time:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them

COVID-19 on surfaces

[EVEN IN OPTIMAL TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY CONDITIONS, COVID-19 IS A VIGOROUS ENEMY. TELL EMPLOYEES TO WIPE DOWN SURFACES BEFORE CONTACT, EVEN THEIR OWN DESKS AND KEYBOARDS.]

A study published in The Lancet Microbe tested how long COVID-19 can last on common surfaces. In a 71° room with 65% humidity (much higher than most workplaces), the virus disappeared from printer and tissue paper in only 3 hours. It took 2 days to vanish from wood and cloth and an unfortunate 7 days for plastic and stainless steel. Even in optimal temperature/humidity conditions, COVID-19 is a vigorous enemy. Tell employees to wipe down surfaces before contact, even their own desks and keyboards.

Take responsibility 

Remind employees to stay home when they’re sick. Also let them know if they become sick at work they should notify their manager immediately and go home. Wiping down surfaces before use and minimizing contact as much as possible should be top of mind until this virus is under control. Ask employees for suggestions they may have to minimize risk and slow the spread. The more we help each other, the sooner we may be able to get back to norma

Read how to clean your office equipment without damaging it HERE.

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