Return to Work: 20 Workspace Best-Practices

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As workplaces prepare to welcome employees back, employers have the task of ensuring safe working conditions and processes. Checking all the right boxes can help you not only protect your workforce, but drive productivity, boost morale, and mitigate stress.

Here are 20 best practices to follow based on WHO guidelines and industry best practices.

Employee wellness protocols

1. Allow employees with a mild cough or low-grade fever (≥ 37.3°C) to work from home

WHO data suggests that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic and isolating potentially-sick employees is a proven way of halting community transmission.

2. Offer surgical face masks to all employees coming into office

Good respiratory hygiene prevents the virus from spreading and masks give those with a runny nose or cough an easy way to keep co-workers safe.

3. Educate staff about guidelines pertaining to travel, mass gatherings, sanitisation, PPE, etc.

Compliance with local, national, and international policies helps in fighting COVID-19 together and ensuring the protection of communities.

4. Set norms for social distancing and draft a ‘Stay home if unwell’ policy

Being proactive about keeping your workspace safe is the best way to prevent an outbreak and keep your office open.

5. Offer your workforce mental and psychological support to avoid depression and burnout

A large number of the population now experience elevated levels of fear, stress, and anxiety. Positive support from the workplace promotes employee wellbeing and boosts productivity.

To supplement these 5 wellness protocols at the workplace, employees can use these tips to make their return to work safer and less stressful.

Entry and circulation protocols

6. Start contactless temperature screening and other basic checks at entry points

Temperature checks and self-declaration forms can give your workspace a layer of protection against the coronavirus, flagging dangers right at the start.

7. Identify additional entry points to reduce queues and cut down on touch-based ID devices

Decreasing the density of people and eliminating touchpoints combats the common modes of COVID-19 transmission.

8. Install sanitising stations at entries, exits, cafeterias, conference areas, and other high-traffic zones

Hand washing kills the coronavirus, reducing the chances of COVID-19 spreading through contact with contaminated surfaces.

9. Introduce a one-way flow with directional signs to maximise social distancing

Cutting movement within corridors by 50% is a great way of avoiding close contact (within ~6m) between persons.

10. Set maximum occupancy limits for lifts, company vehicles, and restrict non-essential traffic

Increasing physical distance while reducing person density decreases the probability of the virus spreading through infected persons or objects.

Hygiene protocols

11. Disinfect surfaces like desks & chairs and objects like computers regularly

Infected respiratory droplets can contaminate commonly-used items and sanitization ensures that the virus is eliminated.

12. Use fresh 1% sodium hypochlorite solution for high-contact surface (e.g. handrails)

Sodium hypochlorite is effective, low-cost, safe and can be used to sanitize a wide range of surfaces.

13. Consider recommended disinfectants (e.g. 70-90% ethanol, >0.5% hydrogen peroxide)

Agents like hydrogen peroxide can prove to be safer than sodium hypochlorite or more appropriate for certain surfaces, while alcohol solutions can be used if supplies are short.

14. Replace open bins with covered bins for safe disposal of face masks

Eliminating the chances of pathogens, including the coronavirus, escaping dustbins is sure to check the spread of disease.

15. Stagger work times to reduce overcrowding at the workspace

A/B shifts can cut density to 50% and less persons make it easier to practice and maintain physical distancing.

Office interiors and layout protocols

16. Reorganise desks to ensure social distancing of at least 1-2 metres

Close contact increases the risk of infection, as COVID-19 mainly spreads through droplets generated when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or speaks

17. Use modular, flexible furniture to create suitable spaces

Furniture that allows for varied configurations makes it easy to adapt to the demands of social distancing and the needs of collaboration.

18. Rearrange the workspace for cross ventilation, either through natural or artificial means

Research suggests that COVID-19 can spread via aerosol transmission and proper ventilation helps remove exhaled virus-laden air and replace it with clean air

19. Go for zonal rather than central AC and install and clean filters regularly

Recirculation of indoor air can increase the risk of transmission and mixing ventilation systems spread contaminated air evenly through the space while good filtration can help mitigate

20. Set aside a space to isolate any person who takes ill

Restricting infected persons to a safe space till the time proper medical care can be administered is best for the wellbeing of employees and the organization.

Together these 20 practices can help you and your team emerge out of the lockdown stronger, more productive, and happier. With guardrails for safety in place, you’ll successfully create a work environment that employees can thrive in!

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