COVID-19 has completely disrupted the workplace as we know it. As businesses are slowly being allowed to reopen, employers must plan now for what their post-coronavirus workplace will look like.
By updating office and facility layouts, encouraging new behaviors and adjusting remote work options, employers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, and protect the health and safety – physical and mental – of employees.
Physical Changes to Workplaces
Here are some best practices for organizations to consider in their physical workspace:
- Increase each employee’s personal space, including ensuring desks are six or more feet apart
- Create walls and barriers between cubicles
- Designate a walking-traffic flow that discourages congestion
- Perform maintenance on air-filtration systems
- Install automatic doors
- Install no-touch soap dispensers and sinks in bathrooms
- Make hand sanitizer and cleaning products readily available
In addition to physical changes to the workplace, you and your employees’ behavioral adjustments will be equally important. These may include:
- Create expectations for handwashing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the best actions to prevent the spread of coronaviruses is washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage employees to do so often, and consider creating policies to reinforce this behavior.
- Ban or discourage shaking of hands. While shaking hands is an instinct in many cases, it can spread illnesses at an expedited rate.
- Increase thoroughness and frequency of cleaning. According to the CDC, COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for up to 12 hours, creating a risk of transmission. Make adjustments accordingly.
- Adjust meeting practices. Strongly encourage remote meetings. If in-person meetings are absolutely necessary, limit the number of participants, require proper distancing and advise them to not share devices.
The use of technology can aid in efforts to prevent the spread of diseases. Some organizations are tracking employees’ distances through cellphones or other devices. Some are screening employees and guests for high temperatures. Employers can also consider installing or expanding the use of hands-free voice assistants, such as Amazon, Google or Apple devices, with the intent of reducing the use of shared technology surfaces.
Expanding Telecommuting Options
According to a survey of U.S. employers by the Computing Technology Industry Association conducted in 2019, more than two-thirds of respondents across a range of different industries and professions reported increased productivity when they telecommuted full- or part-time. While the feasibility of remote work varies depending on an employee’s job responsibilities, expanding remote work options offers other potential benefits, including:
- Fewer opportunities for diseases such as coronaviruses to spread
- Increased flexibility
- Increased retention
- Reduced greenhouse emissions
- The ability to tap into a broader talent pool
Best practices for expanding remote work include creating outlined companywide practices rather than leaving remote work approval requests up to the subjective opinion of a manager.
Preparing for Future Pandemics
Even after reopening, health experts warn that businesses should be prepared for additional waves of COVID-19, as well as future pandemics. Create plans that account for partial or full closings of office locations.
As employees reenter the job market, post-coronavirus practices will be top of mind. By being proactive and establishing appropriate measures and practices, employers can not only help prevent the spread of diseases but will also put employees and customers at ease, knowing that necessary steps are being taken to ensure their health and safety.
As laws and guidelines related to COVID-19 change, employers should consult with legal counsel when updating or changing policies. To learn more, contact your local risk and insurance professional or a member of our team