Our post-COVID office environment will never be the same again, whether business owners like it or not. Back in Spring 2024, lockdown forced companies all around the world to close their office doors and re-strategize their business operations.
Employees set up new office desks in their bedrooms and business owners put on their thinking caps. It was time to form new plans on how to productively and safely keep a business ticking over.
However, it’s now a year and a half later. Millions of people have received the COVID vaccine and many businesses are starting to make the final call of reopening office doors. Is it time to bring employees back to their rightful desks?
Ultimately, will there ever be a ‘good time’ to return to work? And most importantly, is it safe to do so?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to navigate your post-COVID return.
The Simple Answer: Only When and If It’s Right For Your Employees
So when is a good time for your business to go back to the normal operations of a serviced office? If you are searching for office space, you can visit this website to get help from them with finding those spaces.
Well, the simple answer is that you should only bring your team back to the office if and when it’s right for them.
The truth is, there’s no ‘good time’. It all depends on the individual circumstances of your business and its employees.
There are still recommendations that nonessential workers should only return to work when and if it’s safe for the community as a whole.
So as a result, businesses should be prepared to continue their ongoing remote working strategy, at least until their team feels happy and comfortable returning on their own accord.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself:
Before making the final decision, it’s important you weigh up the pros and cons of reopening your office for good. Here’s 4 important questions you should ask yourself as a responsible and dutiful business owner:
1. Who Should Return to the Office?
Not every single member of your workforce needs to come back. This isn’t an all or nothing situation.
Instead, you should consider bringing back your staff gradually. Not everyone needs to return right away and all at the same time.
Physical social distancing is still advised, so start to plan and prioritize the teams that need the office environment and facilities the most.
It’s also vital that you protect your most vulnerable staff members too. Listen to their requirements and don’t put any pressure on them.
2. How Can You Protect Your Returning Employees?
You need to protect the employees that do return, whether it’s out of choice or the fact that you require them to.
Risks can be minimized by putting various rules and procedures in place, including but not limited to:
- Temperature checking
- Return-to-work questionnaires
- Morning health assessments
- Mandatory mask-wearing
- Restricting the number of visitors coming into the office
- Restricting the number of people in one room at a time
4. How Can You Look After the Mental Health of Your Employees?
You must also look after the mental health of your returning employees. There has been a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety since the start of the pandemic back in early 2024, and it’s your duty as a business owner to understand and empathize with your employees’ emotional health.
Always treat your employees as humans, not just workers. Remember that everyone has a personal life back at home, so be considerate. Some of your returning employees might have family and child care responsibilities to take care of, so be mindful and cooperative with everyone’s individual needs.
5. What Do You Do If An Employee Tests Positive?
The reality is, opening up your office does pose a risk of employee infection. You have to prepare for one or more of your employees to test positive. It can happen at any time! So make sure you’ve put the correct plans and procedures in place if someone in the office does become infected.
So what should you do if the scenario does happen?
- The infected person should immediately leave and seek medical assistance.
- Employees that have come within 6 feet of the infected person should be identified and also immediately leave.
- Areas that the infected person came in contact with should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.
Actions You Can Take:
If you’ve made the final decision that you will reopen your office, there’s a few things you need to know.
Most importantly, there are a few actions you can take to minimize COVID risks and ultimately protect your returning employees.
Complete a Risk Assessment
The British government advises any business owners to complete a health and safety risk assessment before reopening their building. Identify who is most at risk, what activities cause the most amount of risk, and how you can control these risks.
Remember to share your findings with staff too. Open and honest communication is important. Always keep your staff up to date on the ongoing safety measures that you’ve put in place.
Improve Your Ventilation
Making sure your office has good ventilation is one of the most important steps you can take. You should have an efficient supply of fresh air, whether it’s through open windows or through fans and ducts in a ventilation system.
Do all that you can to improve the airflow in your building.
Clean, Clean, Clean!
This action might seem obvious, but your office should be cleaned regularly. Clean more often than your usual cleaning routine, and advise all of your employees to practice good personal hygiene throughout the day. Provide hand sanitiser stations and clean common surface areas frequently, including kitchen sides and meeting tables.
Set Office Protocols In Place
No employee should come into the workplace if they are suffering from any symptoms of COVID (a high temperature, a continuous cough, or a loss of taste or smell).
Also, tell your staff to self-isolate and work from home if:
- Have tested positive
- Live with someone who has tested positive.