The last few months have been full of uncertainty. Now that things appear to have turned the corner, restrictions are easing and businesses and organizations are preparing to reopen. But returning to offices after COVID-19 itself can seem like a daunting task. A return to normal operations is crucial, but so is managing risk in these uncertain times.
It’s important to be organized. A plan can help ensure your business’s reopening is both safe and successful.
Offices after COVID-19: Plan for Social Distancing
Social distancing is the practice of keeping extra physical space between yourself and others in public settings. Studies have indicated that sustained close contact, close quarters and mass gatherings may help spread disease. Keeping a social distance of at least 6 feet from others and minimizing gatherings of large groups can lower the risk of spreading illness.
As you return to your office, plan for how you can implement social distancing to reduce risk:
- Consider phasing the return of employees, allowing some individuals or teams to continue to work from home, while others return to the office.
- Notify employees in advance of your plans for reopening, giving clear guidance on who will return to the workspace and when.
- Consider staggered shifts in work environments with close quarters or high occupancy to limit the number of employees in the workplace at one time.
- Make sure to post signage about new social distancing guidelines to help reinforce health and safety practices.
Offices after COVID-1: Manage Hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment Needs
Moving forward requires extra attention be focused on hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. The CDC has created wide-ranging guidance for reopening businesses and organizations, including reopening your building safely after a prolonged absence. Plan for cleaning schedules, equipment needs and sanitation services and take note of these key hygiene and PPE reopening steps:
- Conduct an initial thorough cleaning of your facility and develop a long-term plan for regular frequent cleaning and disinfection. The EPA has created a list of supplies effective against COVID-19 and the CDC has detailed cleaning guidance.
- Ensure employees returning to work are healthy and that they do not come to work if ill.
- Provide hygiene products and PPE to employees and encourage their use. See OSHA workplace guidance for more details.
- Encourage individuals to wash hands frequently and post flyers explaining proper handwashing procedures.
Offices after COVID-19: Encourage Guest and Customer Safety
Ensure your reopening considers the health and safety of guests, customers and clients. While employees can be trained ahead of opening, visitors will be looking for guidance onsite. Every business’s needs and risks will differ, so communicating the specific COVID-19 safety practices of your organization are key.
- Display signage outside the store outlining your new health and safety policies. Provide instructions for what visitors should and should not do.
- Offer hand sanitizer and wipes to customers upon arrival. Post signage to inform an employee if your self-serve hygiene station runs out.
- Consider adjusting store hours and limiting in-store guest capacity. Many businesses have offered special store hours for those with special health concerns. Others have suspended walk-in service and began scheduling appointments.
- Consider encouraging or requiring customers to wear face coverings. If required, consider supplying complimentary face masks or selling them for a nominal fee.
- Add markers or decals on the floor to remind guests about social distancing. Make sure markings don’t create a trip hazard and ensure proper adhesion and use anti-slip materials.
By demonstrating careful attention to social distancing, cleanliness and the safety of employees and customers, you can reduce the risk of someone getting ill and you facing a claim.
While this remains a confusing time, remember that resources are available to help. The CDC, WHO and OSHA offer industry-specific guidance. Always ensure you follow any local, state and federal guidance, as well as any franchise or operating requirements.
At Lockton Affinity, our goal is to be your partner in protecting your business. We hope this information will help you navigate the challenges you are facing as a business owner.
Please note, this information is based on the information known as of the date published. It should be used as a resource and in no way should be considered legal advice.