Despite recent government advice to go back to work if you can’t operate from home, entering the office again seems premature for many workers. Over the last two months, you’ve developed new habits and a sharper view of the way you interact with others safely. Before business can resume, you need to maintain vigilant precautions in the workplace. Now more than ever you have to prevent contracting and spreading germs to your colleagues and the public.
Advice regarding the protective equipment and procedures you should put in place in your office differ from industry to industry. The government has provided general guidance for many sectors, particularly construction and manufacturing. The details are general due to the subjectivity of individual businesses. You, therefore, have to draw on general government guidance as an outline and evaluate your business circumstances to learn what’s right for you.
Here are some of the protective equipment and procedures your business may need to protect the health and safety of your workers in the office.
A detailed risk assessment
Before you make any physical additions to your office, you need to know what you’re working with. Conducting a risk assessment is the best way to achieve this. By taking an in-depth look at your office space you can understand the actions you need to take. Firstly, think about the number of people that you’re expecting back into the building. If this is a significant number, look at the access points of your building and how workers will move around during the day. Staggering start and end times will reduce footfall through entrances and exits at core hours
Consider how close together your desks and equipment are. There will need to be a two-metre distance between each worker at all times so you may need to rethink your floor plan. Look at the points of the room that get crowded and handled the most; this could be the printer, phone, kitchen and bathrooms. It’s likely you’ll need to make procedural changes in these areas or add more facilities to avoid a build-up of traffic.
Identify where your ventilation points are located and whether they can be open all day. If your office is near a construction site, you may get dust and debris through your windows and doors which can cause sneezing and coughing. Assessing all of these behavioural and physical elements of your office will ensure you can improve the health and safety standard in your workplace. Once you’ve identified the risks that are present in your workplace, you can understand which equipment and procedural measures to implement.
If maintaining a two-metre distance between desks and facilities isn’t possible in your office, protective screens are a great option. These screens can be installed at the front, back and sides of desks to provide a barrier between workers. If your desks already have partitions that separate individuals, you may need a protective barrier that adds a bit of height rather than being floor-length. Additional height barriers simply attach to your existing partitions and provide the same protective benefits as the larger screens.
If your business is open to the public, you may want to consider a counter screen. This is particularly useful for workers at reception desks who must be face-to-face with visitors. You can get screens with small slots in the top or bottom to pass documents through without physical contact. The screens prevent particles from being projected person to person when interacting throughout the day. Screens can be moved around the room depending on where they’re needed and when, so are flexible and reusable. They can be entirely sanitised by wiping down the screens regularly to prevent a build-up of germs and bacteria.
Hand sanitation stations
It’s impractical and unsafe for employees to visit the kitchen or bathroom every time you need to wash your hands. While handwashing with soap and warm water is the most effective way to kill germs, hand sanitiser is an effective solution. With the frequency of handwashing being so high, you put yourself and others at risk of exposure when moving from room to room. Installing hand sanitiser stations around your workplace allows employees to clean their hands regularly without risking exposure. Whether it’s one by your door or multiple around the building, you can sanitise your hands each time you enter and exit a room, handle an appliance or touch something another person has touched.
By fitting stations with automatic dispensers, you can reduce the contact your workers have with bottles of sanitiser and soap. As you’ll go through a large amount of product throughout the weeks, you also save plastic waste with reusable filling stations. To ensure your team clean their hands thoroughly, you could attach instructional signage to the stations demonstrating the proper handwashing technique. These nudges will ensure everyone follows the same standards of health and hygiene in the workplace.
Back to work strategy development
Employers will be worrying about how to bring employees back to work while prioritising health and safety. A return to work strategy will help you achieve this effectively and ensure you’ve covered each element thoroughly. Return to work won’t happen all at once. It will need to come into effect gradually over a prolonged period to ensure everyone remains protected. Conducting your risk assessment and putting physical equipment in place is a huge part of your strategy, but there are other elements that must be considered as well.
As those who would usually travel by public transport may cycle or walk instead, you might need to install bike racks and storage facilities. Think about mental health and wellbeing too. Offering flexible and remote working will help ease people back into ‘normal’ working life again. Support will need to increase to ensure everyone feels their needs are being met with respect and empathy. Business decisions from now on will need to have the health and safety of employees and the public in mind at all times.
To provide safety for your workforce whilst still being able to return to work in your office if able to, Progress My Office can provide a variety of safety solutions from partition screens to hand sanitation stations. We can carry out an office risk assessment to decide which protective equipment and procedures you should put in place. All of our solutions are tailored around your business needs and office requirements. Providing a safe environment for your staff as they return to work in your workplace is key, as is developing a strategy for what the new ‘normal’ will look like for your business post-COVID-19. Progress can help, from risk assessment to strategy development to delivering physical changes if deemed necessary.
To discuss how to protect your workforce, please get in touch with us.