Most of the world has been working from home for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has certainly had some benefits for both businesses and employees. Many businesses find that it was the push they needed to finally realize the benefits of remote working. And employees enjoying more time at home with their families and no lengthy commutes in the morning. But it hasn’t all been great. Many people hoping to get back to work and spend time with their employees in a normal routine. Now is the time for businesses to develop COVID-19 measures to put in place
If you run an office environment and are preparing for a return to working in the office, here are some key things to keep in mind.
COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing
COVID-19 can spread rapidly in an office environment. For that reason, it’s worth considering whether it’s actually necessary to bring employees back right now, or whether working from home can continue to work for the employer and the employees for a while longer. It may be worth considering continuing remote working until all employees have had the COVID-19 vaccine. That will make sure that everybody has a negative test before returning to the workplace.
Part-Time Office Hours
After almost a year of working from home, it’s unsurprising that many employees are going to need some time to adjust to being back in the office again. And, having everybody return altogether could pose a bigger risk of the virus spreading among employees. Instead, it’s a good plan to have people return to the office on a part-time basis while working from home on the other days. This allows you to stagger the return to work and have less people in the office at any one time. It will also give employees some time to adjust.
Encouraging social distancing in the office should be a priority from the start. Do everything you can to make sure that all employees have enough room to keep at least six feet away from one another. This might involve moving desks around or converting other rooms into office rooms so that employees can spread out more. Plexiglass Sneeze Guards can also be very useful as a protective barrier between offices. That will be especially true where keeping physical distance between workers might be difficult.
All it will take is for one employee to get COVID-19! From there, the rest of the office could quickly become infected and will need to self-isolate. It’s important to have a solid policy in place that employees can follow if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19. You can also help by checking temperatures as employees arrive at work. Often, a higher-than-normal temperature that might not yet be noticeable to the person could be an early warning sign of COVID-19. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Allow any employees with suspected symptoms to work from home until their symptoms have gone away or they have received a negative test result.
Although office workers have managed better than many expected with working from home this year, many businesses and employees want to get things back to normal as soon as possible. Taking the appropriate measures to keep everybody safe and healthy is important if you are planning a return to the office soon.
I would have thought that this would have been part of the long range planning process for the business. I know that if I was a business owner (which I am not) I would have been planning ahead and not just focused on the day to day needs. Even small businesses should be following the paths that the big corporate businesses are doing in terms of creating a workplace environment that is safe to work in, considering the infectiousness of Covid-19. (Sanitation, social distancing, sick leave, employees all vaccinated). One thing that was emphasized by Covid-19 and needs to be definitely continued was the poor sanitation environment we had accepted in the months prior to the lockdown.—Hand washing, clean space (both surface and air) and general sloppy behavior of handling items. Because I have worked in food handling, I can’t understand why people don’t already do this on a regular basis, anyway. A little OCD in keeping our hands clean plus keeping your germs to yourself is not hard to do. Each business depending on how it does business should already have a plan in place. It may not suit every employee but it will have to cover the safety needs which are now permanent requirements. You as the business owner have the right and the obligation to provide the environment setting with the new requirement safety issues, and offer adaptions as best as possible to achieve the safety issues. If the employee doesn’t want to adapt to the changes, and is not vaccinated, and your job changes is not acceptable to that employee, you don’t have any obligation to continue their employment. But the employer does have to put the needed changes in place and actually should have already, given that a year has occurred. The employees should also realize that they will not get their individual idea of a perfect setting either ( let’s not be like the teachers, who have been getting paid a full salary and not really teaching as effectively as in-person classroom and keep demanding more “conditions “ for that perfect setting). I could on in detail on this but it is a separate issue.
As far as I am concerned, the business owners should have already planned on what to do for re-opening of their businesses and have a plan of action to deal with employees who still don’t want to return to work in person. But nothing will be the same normal.
Hi MariaRose – I’m sure it isn’t happening everywhere, but I’m seeing more small businesses than ever implementing Covid safety regulations. Even going into small shops, like car repair shops, I see employees wearing masks, and some emphasis on social distancing. And in most restaurants now, there are signs in the bathrooms advising patrons to use paper towels even to open doors. My guess is that Covid is making us all more aware of the importance of cleanliness as a general procedure. You’re right that we should have been doing it all along. But human nature being what it is, it usually takes a crisis before we do anything constructive.