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HR Management

How to Safely Return to the Workplace During the Pandemic

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced many countries to implement lockdown and quarantine guidelines to contain the spread of this respiratory virus. This has disrupted daily lives, impacted economies, and affected businesses.

While it is still an ongoing battle, some parts of the world are ready to gradually get some sense of normalcy and return to the workplace. This is good news for businesses, for it helps prevent any further revenue loss or forced closures

With this, employers have the responsibility to design strategies and new procedures that allow employees to safely return after doing remote work or being off work for a while. If your business is located in an area that is cleared for resuming operations, then it’s all good! Now, you must impose health and safety measures to create a safe working environment for your employees.

We’ve listed down some helpful tips to prepare your company for a safe return at work.

Implement Government Guidelines

Government guidelines may vary depending on where your workplace is located since some cities were affected by COVID-19 harder than others. It’s essential to keep up to date with your local government regarding reopening procedures and health and safety policies.

Make sure to follow the guidelines and implement the best health practices. For instance, you may need to make face masks and face shields available to your employees if these protective gears are mandatory when going out in public. Moreover, you can refer to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for getting your workplace ready.

Observe Physical Distancing Practices

Resumption of work in your physical site doesn’t mean going back to normal practices. It’s crucial that you observe social distancing rules in your workplace to ensure the safety of your employees, customers, clients, and visitors.

You can install posters or visual cues around your workplace to remind everyone, including customers and visitors, to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another. If necessary, place partitions on cubicles for extra precaution.

If you have an on-site cafeteria, remove some seats to encourage social distancing strictly and to limit the capacity. This goes the same for your other common spaces, like break room areas.

Rearrange Your Office Layout

In compliance with health and safety guidelines, you must retrofit your office space with physical distancing protocols in mind. This may require you to rearrange your office furniture and remove unnecessary decor or pieces to create more space to place the desks 6 feet apart.

Additionally, you can impose one-way walking zones and distribute supplies in each work area to minimize unnecessary contact between employees.

Have Enough Sanitation Equipment

To prevent the spread of the virus and other illnesses, place sanitation areas complete with soap, paper towels, alcohol, hand sanitizer, air purifiers, and other hygiene products. You may also consider converting your lounge area and reception area into a decontamination area.

These upgrades may come at a cost, but remember that they’re necessary to provide a safe working environment for your workers and keep your business running amidst a virus outbreak.

Minimize Touchpoints

Every surface that people touch in the workplace—door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, copier machines, and more—can be a source of transmission for germs. While it’s impossible to eradicate germs and prevent its spread in the office completely, there are ways that can help minimize its transmission.

For instance, you can install motion lights, touch-free restroom devices (paper towel dispensers, touch-free hand sanitizers), touch-free kitchen tools (water dispenser, coffee machine), and automatic door handles. Making these changes to reduce contact points can protect your workers from infection.

Regularly Clean and Sanitize the Workplace

Since you’re dealing with something you can’t see, it’s critical that you clean and sanitize your work areas and communal areas regularly. The virus can be passed by touching any surface where fluid droplets from an individual infected rest. Encourage your employees to disinfect their desks and tables, telephones, keyboards, and other surfaces upon arrival and before they leave the office, too.

Be Mindful and Understanding

The city where your workplace is located may be declared safe for reopening, but not all of your employees may feel at ease returning to work. Some may not feel comfortable going out in public yet. Moreover, consider where they’ll be coming from. Some places may still have transportation restrictions, making traveling to prime cities a lot more challenging.

During these trying times, it’s important to be empathetic towards other people. Think about surveying to know how your employees feel about returning to the office. If the result shows some are ready to come to work, you can offer flexible options.

You can allow those who prefer working from home to stay as is and those who are more comfortable working in the office to come in. Alternatively, you can offer a staggered work schedule.

Wrapping It Up

Events like a pandemic and other natural calamities are difficult to predict, making it all the more important for businesses to prepare for such events. To ensure business continuity amid unforeseen circumstances, create a plan that details the procedures you must follow to maintain core business functions and operations during challenging times.

About the Author

Valerie Chua is a Content Specialist at Manila Recruitment, a company providing headhunting solutions for the recruitment of executive, expert, technical and specialist positions in the Philippines. Follow Manila Recruitment on Twitter @MNLrecruitment or connect with them on LinkedIn.

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