In this blog, we examine the specific measures that businesses which use offices as their main workplace should take to ensure the safe reopening after coronavirus lockdown. These should form the basis for your reopening plans which should be documented and shared amongst all team members.
Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees, staff and visitors from harm. This includes protecting those who come in contact with your business from coronavirus. Business environments such as offices and contact centres pose risks due to close proximity of indoor working. However, they also offer a greater scope for finding alternative ways for teams to work together in new ways.
COVID-19 Risk Assessment
Firstly, businesses in all sectors must review your current workplace risk assessment in light of the changes to risk posed by coronavirus. You can read more about conducting a COVID-19 Risk Assessment in our previous blog here. [Tom – insert link when available]
Method Grid is the ideal place to create a COVID-19 risk assessment which can be regularly reviewed and updated, and shared with everyone within your team.
Working from home
Wherever possible people are still being encouraged to work from home. Office based businesses offer opportunities for successful and productive home working. These should be considered and embraced wherever viable. To help your teams do this effectively you must be able to provide the equipment that is required, such as computers, phones and internet connection, and have regular contact with team members.
Online platforms such as Method Grid allow teams to work together remotely with efficiency and minimal infrastructure. Being able to collaborate on projects, manage team progress and keep to deadlines need not be compromised by physical distance when you can work together through an easily accessible online platform. With the additional support of instant communication tools such as Slack, Google Chat and the like, many of the previous barriers to remote working are no longer a limitation.
Making your business Covid secure
Where you have team members who are not able to work from home you will need to implement changes to the workplace to make it ‘COVID-secure.’
Office work spaces
You should review your office spaces and make changes to conform to current government guidelines. This includes keeping desks two metres apart wherever possible, and minimising the numbers of people in each workspace. Hot-desking should be avoided, with people having their own allocated places to work. Marking out work areas, providing reminder signage and adding screens for physical barriers should all also be considered. People should work side-by-side rather than face-to-face and movement through the office should be minimised.
Movement around the office
Consider where people regularly travel around the space, such as to restrooms, kitchen areas and corridors and implement ways to minimise the chances of people passing each other there. One way systems should be introduced and clearly marked out. Use of canteens and rest areas should be reviewed and social distancing measures put in place here also. Staff should be encouraged to bring their own food rather than using canteens. Their use should be minimised and break times staggered. Wherever possible outside spaces should be utilised.
Arriving and leaving the work place
Arrival to and leaving the workplace should be staggered. Separate storage for belongings being brought into the workplace such as clothes and bags should be provided. Whilst the use of public transport is being discouraged, you should look to provide additional parking for commuters. Increase hand-washing facilities and hand sanitiser, particularly at entrances to offices. Touch based security devices should be avoided so a review of entry to the building should be addressed to minimise contact and increase cleaning where that is not possible. Where your office uses lifts you should reduce their usage by encouraging the use of stairs and minimising capacity, giving priority to those with mobility issues. Hand sanitiser should also be provided.
Meetings form a key element of office workings and should also be adapted to minimise risks. Wherever possible using online meeting tools should be encouraged.This is a productive way to include those still working remotely. Where a physical meeting is necessary, the location should be selected to allow for maximum space for those in attendance. Outside meetings are favourable and hand sanitiser and social distancing within an enclosed room a necessity.
You should review the ventilation available in an enclosed office space to ensure there is maximum air flow of fresh air. Windows should be open as much as possible and air conditioning units maintained and operated to the best effect.
Work areas should be cleaned between uses and regularly touched items frequently disinfected, particularly when shared. Signage should be put in place to encourage good hand-washing practices, remind hygienic coughing and sneezing and minimal touching of faces.
You should document clear guidance for regular cleaning. A clear methodology with detailed cleaning schedule specifying responsibilities should be put in place. Method Grid is the ideal place to document these methods, allowing managers and team members alike to have access to plans and assist in their implementation.
In addition to the above, employers must make provision for those vulnerable to coronavirus and requiring shielding and ensure that your risk assessment specifically accommodates mitigating risk to these groups of people. You can refer to our previous blog to get more detail regarding guidelines in this respect.
Method Grid allows you to create a visible and accountable plan that can be updated and adapted as the guidance changes over the coming months.