Returning to the Office? How to Create a Safe Workplace

As the last COVID restrictions fall away, many businesses are reopening their doors and welcoming employees back to the office. If you plan on doing the same sometime soon, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

After two years and a change of working remotely, the transition back to the office may not be a popular one. Many employees are used to the work-from-home life, and they might feel hesitant to give it up. Others might feel reticent to return to an office, where they’ll share space with colleagues who may or may not be vaccinated.

Re-entry anxiety goes beyond the first-day jitters. Health and safety concerns and social anxiety after working from home can levy a powerful blow to team morale.

Helping your employees navigate their post-pandemic life in the office is a good business decision. That said, it’s no easy task. Here are some tips to help you create a safe workplace your team can feel confident about.

Provide Paid Sick Days

Source: morelle.house.gov

You don’t want anyone to come to work if they’re sick. While there’s a chance they don’t have COVID, there’s an equally good chance they have one of the many variants. By coming in sick, they risk infecting everyone in the office.

Unfortunately, some people feel obligated to work through their illness. If they’re strapped for cash, an employee may not afford the pay cut from staying home for a week to recover.

Nobody wins when someone is stuck choosing between paying their bills and keeping others safe.

Even the playing field by offering paid sick days. Paid sick days are a key component to your safe return to the office, as it gives time for ailing employees to recover safely at home. Not only will this keep the rest of the office safe, but the employee in question is more likely to return feeling rested and ready to work.

Provide Rapid COVID Testing

Some people get COVID and exhibit all the usual symptoms: fever, fatigue, cough, and a loss of taste or smell. However, some people are asymptomatic, meaning they are infected with COVID but feel fine.

Asymptomatic people risk coming into the office and infecting others simply because they don’t realize they’re sick.

One of the best ways to ensure no one comes to work with asymptomatic COVID and spreads it through the office is by providing on-site COVID testing. Rapid testing can tell you quickly whether someone has the virus, with or without symptoms.

You can arrange mobile COVID testing services to perform Rapid Antigen COVID testing in the office. These services will deploy Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) to administer these tests in a dedicated space within your workplace.

Alternatively, you can find COVID testing sites near you through Integracare that offer quick and convenient visits to your employee’s home. In many cases, mobile COVID testing services are flexible and can provide both as needed.

Whether at-home or in the office, you can rest assured that an RPN will follow strict protocols to collect and analyze all swabs properly.

Preserve Mask and Social Distancing Rules

Source: wework.com

Most governments around the world have lifted their face-covering mandates by now. While there may be some exceptions, such as healthcare settings and long-term care homes, most industries are now allowed to be mask-free.

Outside work, the choice to wear a mask is a personal one. However, things change during the workday. Despite the end of workplace mask mandates, employers still have the right to require their employees to wear masks in the office.

Besides vaccinations, masks are one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID, so it’s a good idea to keep this rule. In fact, some top doctors are urging governments to reinstate indoor mask wearing for hard-hit regions.

Speak to your team about this option. If many of them are hesitant to come back to work, knowing everyone must wear a mask can help them feel better about their return.

The same goes for social distancing measures. When possible, spread-out desks to ensure no one is sitting close to each other. You may even consider a staggered workday, so fewer people are in the office at one time.

Increase Your Office Sanitation

When you eventually return to the office, employees will expect their workplace to be clean and disinfected. You’ll have to develop a plan to make sure you disinfect the office regularly to keep your employees safe.

Talk to your building management about developing routine cleaning and disinfecting protocols that include improving ventilation and the frequency of cleaning in the building.

Shared surfaces and objects that are touched often need special care to ensure they remain sanitary throughout the day. You’ll want to provide supplies for your employees to clean their hands before and after touching these objects, as well as after coughing or sneezing.

Cleveland Clinic and Clorox teamed up to create a guide for employers. It goes over the six building blocks of an effective cleaning program, including organizational support, policies, product selection, procedures, education and training, and monitoring.

Refer to this document for ideas on how to create your own plan at the office. Balance this information with your government’s official guidelines for workplace sanitation. Together, these resources will ensure you’re not overlooking anything obvious.

Source: ellicottdevelopment.com

Bottom Line

While your employees may be feeling apprehensive about returning to in-person work, you can help them overcome these fears with the right plan.

A return to the office was going to come, sooner or later. Now that it has arrived for your team, take the time to share your intentions to keep them safe and remain available to talk about your business’ re-opening plan.

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, your employees are still facing the uncertainty that can cause anxiety in the workplace. Open and compassionate communication is key to understanding their perspectives and providing the support they need. From improved cleaning protocols to concierge test services — these tips can help you and your team arrive at the office feeling your best.