Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic came to light in early 2020, it feels as though we have all gone through huge shifts in our lives, not least in terms of our careers and workplaces. Slowly but surely, many businesses and offices are opening again, but are now having to learn how to adapt to run in a post-COVID-19 world.
Employee safety, health and wellbeing is at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment, as this is how workplaces can ensure that they get back up and running again as quickly, but also as safely, as possible. With this being said, there are some things which workplaces will need to do in order for this to happen.
Cleanliness and hygiene are more important now than ever, and the health of employees and workers has never been as critical as it is now. As a business owner, not only is ensuring that your workplace is clean and safe for employees important, but you also need to be supportive and offer guidance should any employees, or even visiting clients, feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the workplace and bring this to your attention.
With this in mind, here are some ways that you can make sure that your workplace is safe, clean and healthy in the post-COVID-19 world.
Ensuring there is ample space in your office or workplace is much easier said than done. It is recommended that we continue to social distance, keeping around six feet – or two meters – away from each other. With this new guidance, this may mean that you need to move some of your office furniture around to ensure that there is ample distance between employees, whilst also providing plenty of space for navigating the office, preferably via a one-way system.
With meeting and breakout rooms, you might want to consider implementing staggering usage times throughout the day, so that there is no risk of too many people using the room at the same time and to ensure disinfection and cleaning can take place in between uses.
Depending on your office space, it might be difficult for you to ensure that there is enough space safe for everyone to work. If this is the case, you could consider staggered starting times or allowing work from home days, so that all your employees need not be in the office at the same time. You could also create “team bubbles” if you have a large workforce, which allows around 6-8 employees to work together on alternating days. This way, your employees are working in the same team, limiting their risk and contact with others, and get to experience being in the office once again. If you are unsure about the current COVID guidelines and regulations for the workplace, then it is worth finding out more information, especially when it comes to risk assessments and social distancing.
Before the pandemic, you likely already had a cleaning routine or schedule and this probably worked well for your business at the time. However, we all need to pay closer attention to our hygiene and cleaning procedures now in order to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Have a look around your office or workplace and identify the “high-touch” areas, such as light switches, door handles, kitchen appliances, printers and lift buttons. Ensure that these are cleaned regularly throughout the day using a high-grade disinfectant, ideally twice an hour. As almost every person who comes into the workplace will touch at least one or two of these, it is important to protect everyone who may do so.
Recommend that employees wash and sanitise their hands regularly throughout the day and install sanitiser dispensers around the workplace so that everyone has quick access to clean hands. In terms of general cleaning, it may be best to have the office cleaned once or twice a day, depending on your workplace, or invest in specialist cleaning services to come and thoroughly disinfect the workplace a couple of times a week.
Keep a cleaning stockpile
If any of your employees have concerns with cleanliness and hygiene, then making sure that there is a well-supplied stock of cleaning products is important. This means that they can take steps to keep themselves safe, as well as others. Things such as disinfectant, wipes, sanitiser, hand soap and cloths are good things to keep in the workplace so that they can be accessed quickly.
Depending on your workplace, you may be recommended to encourage employees to wear masks and face coverings, so keeping a few boxes or packets of spare ones in case anyone forgets theirs is a good idea.
Make mental health a priority
As well as ensuring you are looking after the physical health of your employees is one thing, but you should also be keeping an eye on their mental health, too. We have all been through unprecedented times and everyone’s circumstances have been hugely different from one another, so you never know what your employees may be going through. A family member could be unwell, their partner or housemates could have lost their jobs or they might even just be struggling with things day to day. If your company has had to make redundancies, make use of the furlough scheme or even if you’ve been operating as normal, then the mental health of your employees may have taken a hit in the meantime.
Months of the pandemic, remote working and video calls and meetings have slowly started taking their toll on a large number of people and many employees are now feeling symptoms of a burnout, which can be hugely damaging to their mental health and work relationships and motivation.
Although remote working brings a whole host of benefits, it can also be quite lonely and experiencing this long-term before returning to the office can be draining for most people. Keep an eye on your employes and see how they adapt to returning to work in the office and make it clear that you are supportive of their mental health and wellbeing. Encouraging employees to acknowledge their struggles is a huge thing and can really help with battling the stigma still associated with workplace mental health.
Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer for many different business publications. With a range of knowledge in the business and insurance sector, she is an avid researcher and writer in the field and writes on topics from specialist cleaning for businesses, employee wellbeing and commercial property. You can connect with her on Twitter @NatWilson976.