As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic’s unofficial start, businesses are looking ahead to what’s next in this new normal. For many, the initial charm of remote working has finally run its course. Employees are eyeing their formalwear with longing and craving the authentic social interactions that are so desperately missing from Zoom calls. Is it time to go back to the office? If your business is debating reopening a physical location in the coming months, here are the five most important considerations for establishing a new protocol.
1. Address prolonged vacancy issues.
After working remotely for an extended time, your building may have issues that need attention—and we’re not talking about that rotten banana that’s been sitting on someone’s desk since 2020! Check your heating, ventilation, and HVAC systems to ensure they’re in proper working order and not overdue for a service. You should also check for miscellaneous hazards that might have surfaced while you were gone, such as mold growth, water damage, or pests/rodents. Lastly, confirm that your water systems and devices are clean and safe to use to reduce the risk of any diseases associated with drinking water.
2. Identify weak points where employers could be exposed.
Reevaluate your office operations through the lens of an ongoing pandemic. Adjust your office layout to promote a healthy and safe workplace. Reconfigure desks, meeting rooms, and any communal areas, allowing for 6 ft. social distancing and add physical barriers and visual cues wherever possible. In high-traffic areas, replace items with single-use alternatives. Increase circulation with open windows or doors, and consult with an air quality professional to upgrade your ventilation/filtration system.
3. Develop a sanitizing process and daily health checks.
Upon arrival, daily health checks, such as a temperature screening or a symptom questionnaire, will establish expectations from the moment your employees walk through the door. You can also stagger shifts, start/end times, and break times to avoid congestion in high-traffic areas. It’s essential to create a meticulous sanitizing process and cadence for high-touch areas and communicate this process to the building occupants. Ensure supplies such as hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, hand soap, paper towels, and masks are accessible at all times.
4. Establish a transparent culture of open communication.
One of the most critical steps for reopening your office will be establishing a culture of open communication. Clearly explain the actions you’ve taken to get the building ready for occupants and the changes you’ve made to promote health and safety. Leave no room for interpretation regarding what employees should expect upon returning to work by providing a thorough update.
You will also want to outline any specific contact tracing procedures if someone gets sick. Do not instate any consequences that would deter employees from revealing that they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Instead, establish trust by outlining the process for what to do if/when an employee tests positive or is exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus.
5. Prep your HR and security team for the unexpected.
There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic will continue to throw curveballs your way. Even if your office is ready to reopen with the most comprehensive new protocols in place, obstacles that you didn’t anticipate will arise. Prepare your HR and security team for unexpected challenges. You may encounter a disgruntled employee who no longer feels safe at work, or the situation could escalate to the extreme of workplace violence. With high tensions, varying comfort levels, and lingering fear, we are unfortunately just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long-term emotional consequences of the pandemic.
At SecurAmerica, we’re continuously reevaluating the current climate to adjust our services to each client’s changing priorities and needs. You can rest assured that your security team is poised to stay nimble as the pandemic progresses and help you reopen safely when the time is right.