The current UK government guidance is that everyone should work from home if they can. So, if your employees can continue to work remotely, there is no need to reopen your offices. However, if some need to return to physical locations, you must ensure they are able to work safely.
In this guide, we outline office safety and how you can continue - or begin - to welcome colleagues into your reopened workplaces.
We explain the steps you need to establish a safe working environment - and keep it that way.
To ensure your team is set up for working safely, you need to assess what safety should look like in your workplace. Local laws and guidance will play a big part of this, but you will also need to consider nuances specific to your own unique situation and industry.
No two businesses are the same so you need to define what will work for you, while keeping in line with legal and regulatory obligations.
Before re-opening, it's important to consider what you need to make your workplace safe. You've likely done this already, and it may have included working out if:
Colleagues needed personal protective equipment (PPE)
Reduced capacity was required
Official safety policies were needed
You should keep reviewing this and asking more questions.
Do you need to keep windows open throughout the winter, for example? And if so, how do you plan on keeping staff warm and comfortable?
New scientific evidence may also emerge, which can guide you and may change what’s considered to be ‘safe’.
A hierarchy of controls, which is commonly used in the health and safety industry, can be really useful here.
Whatever you do, don’t forget about these considerations once you are open. They need to remain on your mind so that you can make sure all employees continue to take precautions, such as social distancing and good hygiene practices.
Defining a clear V2MOM process can help you with this.
A V2MOM process is used to outline your vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures. Even if you have already created one, this is something you should continually revisit in order to keep working safely.
A shared V2MOM is a method of goal setting that will help keep you on the right track, even if circumstances change. This is a living document that requires regular attention and care.
The hard work isn’t over once you return to the workplace. Already, we can see how things have changed with local lockdowns and changing work from home guidance. A V2MOM is an important aspect of your business resilience plan.
If you haven’t used a V2MOM before, you may find our template helpful: GET V2MOM TEMPLATE
Ensuring your team can continue working safely relies on everyone being aware of external risks, not just internal ones.
Externally, you should consider:
Government guidance: What is being said regarding workplaces and public transport? Are my employees considered essential workers and advised to return to the office? Are there any localised restrictions?
Rate of COVID-19 cases: Are the cases in your area declining, or are they rising? Is widespread testing available?
Health system capacity: Is everyone who becomes unwell with COVID-19 able to get the treatment they need? Have other healthcare procedures resumed?
Although these may not obviously relate to your office environment, they affect people’s ability to work safely.
If, for example, government advice is in favour of working from home where possible, COVID-19 cases are rising (or not consistently falling), and there are concerns about hospital capacity and access to treatment, a shared workplace immediately becomes a higher risk environment - no matter how many precautions your organisation puts in place.
If the external risks are low enough to allow for safe working, you must make sure you and your colleagues don’t become complacent when within your own office.
Some internal factors to consider are:
Employees: Are employees happy and comfortable with being in the office? Are any particularly vulnerable to COVID-19? Are certain employees’ behaviours putting others at risk?
Leadership input: Is the leadership located at your office leading by example and ensuring guidance is followed?
Office resources: Are you able to provide all the equipment needed? Is it realistic to maintain the high standards of cleanliness needed?
The number of things to consider can become overwhelming. But to make it easier to evaluate some of the factors above, you can use Work.com’s Workplace Command Center. This Salesforce product allows you to visualise multiple streams of information in a central location. It can be used to track employee wellness, training, contact tracing and more. The single unified hub empowers you to make quick, data-driven decisions and take action toward working safely.
It also features a tool for shift planning, which can be used to help you run your workplace on a reduced - and safe - capacity.
The design of your office is essential to keep your employees safe. You’ll need to keep re-evaluating this far beyond your initial reopen.
Are you identifying areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain? Have COVID-secure guidelines for your industry changed? Are you noticing employees failing to comply with advice?
These are just some of the things you need to keep an eye on to ensure your office remains safe.
Some aspects to consider are:
The two-metre distancing guidance extends to desks and the space around them. To keep this distance, you may need to reduce floor capacity and remove chairs and desks. Installing plexiglass dividers will also safeguard workstations and mitigations such as these mean you may be able to reduce distancing to comply with the one metre plus rule.
If the number of employees working in your office changes, you may need to rearrange workstations to ensure that employees can work productively while staying safe.
To promote good hand hygiene, you can add hand washing and sanitiser stations throughout your office.
Don’t forget to keep these topped up.
Consider keeping capacity low in shared spaces, such as kitchens, bathrooms and meeting rooms to maintain distance.
You may want to roll out rules about the maximum number of employees who should gather in one space, if you haven’t done so already.
If you find that kitchens or break rooms are becoming too busy, you may need to introduce staggered lunch times to ensure people can remain on-site but also maintain their distance.
All reputable cleaning firms should be offering enhanced cleaning. But do instruct cleaners to pay extra attention to high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, lift keypads, and touchscreens. It’s recommended you have cleaners in throughout the day - not just in the evening.
In the event of somebody who has been in your office testing positive for COVID-19, consider hiring a specialist to decontaminate your workplace.
Elevators are an unavoidable enclosed space if you’re in a tall building.
Consider the following rules to protect your staff in this setting:
A limit on the number of people in the lift per ride to ensure physical distance can be maintained
Encouraging mask-wearing during the ride
No talking while inside
Requiring staggered employee arrivals and finishing times to avoid queues outside
The goal is to have as much fresh air as possible. This could be achieved by:
Opening operable windows where safe to do so
Avoiding air recirculation or filtering recirculated air
Disabling systems that reduce airflow, including CO2 sensors
Keeping HVAC systems running 24/7, including bathroom exhaust
Meeting with the landlord of each building to review their air quality plan
For long term plans, you may want to even consider moving office locations to somewhere with better air circulation. If you have multiple office locations, you may want to limit those who have to be on-site to the building with the most optimal air circulation (providing this doesn’t increase the amount of time colleagues spend on public transport).
A key part of keeping employees safe is reminding everyone of the risks present.
When employees are back in the office environment, it can be easy for them to accidentally revert to old behaviours without realising.
To prevent this, visual clues such as signs, stickers and digital signage, can serve as friendly reminders for people to keep their distance.
These are some of the signs we have been using at the Salesforce offices:
You can even download these free templates to make your own signs. Make sure you review these guidelines before using. GET THE TEMPLATES
We understand how important the safety of your workforce is. And Salesforce’s Work.com has been built with this in mind.
Find out more about how Work.com’s custom apps, expert advice, and training can help you build trust, stay resilient and continue working safely.
Learn more at work.com