As a business owner you’ll be excited at the prospect of getting your staff back into the workplace. However, we need to play safe and get everything in place. It is all about keeping you, your team, and your customers safe. Health & Safety needs to be paramount.
In this article we’ll break down ten of the important steps to take today, providing a guideto help reopen as quickly and as safely as possible.
A quick note on the legal requirements of reopening during a pandemic
What follows is simply our advice on getting back to business. It’s important to read these guidelines in full yourself, before reopening — particularly regarding to the status of lockdown, which could quickly change.
Review all government guidelines
To get your business up and running your absolute first priority is to review and follow all government guidelines, so you comply with the law, and protect the safety of yourself, your staff and clients.
For offices and contact centres, for example, the government has released official guidelines that cover eight key sections, ranging from social distancing rules to potential PPE requirements. Click here to access the entire document when drawing up your coronavirus action plan.
Conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment
As an employer, it is your legal responsibility to protect the wellbeing of staff, suppliers and clients and now it is even more important than ever.
Health and Safety Executive has issued new guidelines that require businesses to carry out new risk assessments in regards to COVID-19.
You can read their official guide for more information on what this needs to cover specifically, and use this recommended template. Your coronavirus risk assessment should highlight everything you’re going to do to limit the risks of COVID-19 within your space including: enforcing social distancing rules, setting up precise cleaning procedures, providing the necessary PPE, and keeping your staff updated on how you’re going to protect them.
Once you’ve ticked those boxes, display the government’s risk assessment certificate, to help reassure your staff and clients.
Government guidelines advise that frequent handwashing is the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus. But frequent bathroom trips aren’t always practical in a busy office — and that’s where hand sanitisers come in.
Hand sanitisers are a quick and easy alternative to handwashing, and provide an unbeatable solution for minimising the spread, and protecting staff and visitors from COVID-19.
When picking a hand sanitiser, it’s important to be sure that it contains a WHO approved formula and is at least 60% alcohol-based. You’ll also need to think about how the hand sanitiser is presented within your office.
Dispensing stations, for example, are a great idea, as they make it clear that hand sanitiser is available. Placing sanitiser dispensers near your front door, in kitchens, and around desk spaces, shows staff and clients how seriously you are taking the fight against coronavirus — you can even get dispenser units customised with your own corporate branding!
For more information on providing NHS standard hand sanitiser for your commercial space, click here to find out how we can help.
Cleaning & disinfecting
In any workplace, cleanliness has always been important. But now, it’s life-saving.
Keeping your surfaces COVID-secure is going to be a team effort. So, create a clear and focused rota, outlining everything that needs doing.
First, you’ll need to focus on the key surfaces that pose the most risk, computer desks, keyboards, kitchen worktops and any communal office equipment (like pens and notebooks). Ideally, these should be cleaned after every use. That’s why a rota is so important — it’ll help to organise whose responsibility that is throughout the day.
Next, you should create procedures that encourage cleanliness more generally. Really ramp up your toilet cleaning schedule. And ask your staff to wipe down their desks as much as possible — especially if they’re working a shift, picking up from someone else, or preparing to hand over to a colleague.
Government guidelines advise that your ‘usual cleaning products’ will be sufficient for this, so don’t worry about buying any specific formulas. So long as you stick to bleach or alcohol-based solutions, your efforts will be effective.
“Hot desking” or sharing of workstations should be avoided for the time being if at all possible. And if your office has a cafeteria, be extra vigilant that it follows all government guidelines for food hygiene before resuming service.
Government guidelines stipulate that PPE is only essential in medical environments (other than the new rules for face masks in shops coming in from 24th July 2020). However, staff (and clients) might feel more comfortable wearing a face covering. Talk to your team and make face masks available.
Depending on the size of your commercial space, you could also consider installing plexiglass screens around reception desks where social distancing might be difficult to maintain.
Flexible work arrangements
Government rules state that all businesses must provide flexible work arrangements whenever possible. This means allowing your staff to continue working from home if they can.
It’s important to retain some flexibility, especially for those at higher risk. Be understanding of people’s home-lives; if they care for a friend, or home-school children, support them in this.
Remember, it’s still mandatory for those with a fever or new, persistent cough to self-isolate.
Enforce social distancing rules
Official government guidelines state that all staff and visitors must keep a 1m (in England) or 2m (elsewhere) distance at all times.
To enforce social distancing measures:
- Provide 1m / 2m markers that remind staff, clients and any visitors
- Be mindful of the amount of staff working each day/shift
- Space out desks as much as possible
- Consider alternate ‘work from home’ days if space is tight
Break areas should be reassessed, too. If it’s difficult for staff to maintain social distancing while on break, you should consider closing small communal areas, and staggering break times as much as you can.
Clear guidelines and signage throughout your premises
While we’re surrounded by coronavirus news most of the time, it’s still wise to leave a few health and hygiene reminders around your office.
We’ve already mentioned 1m / 2m markings, but there are a number of other visual cues you can lean on during this time. Posters are a great way of reminding people to wash or sanitise their hands, always cover their mouth when they cough, and sneeze either into a tissue or their arm if necessary.
Additionally, if you choose to implement any new procedures — like staggered breaks, or closure of communal kitchen areas — do all you can to make this as clear as possible, to avoid any confusion or frustration.
Manage the risk of transmission
When, or if, 1m / 2m distancing isn’t possible, do all you can to manage the risk of transmission by providing alternative ways of working that put the safety first.
If your office gets easily crowded, encourage working from home and/or take client meetings off-site, in an outdoor area of a local cafe.
Plexiglass screens are a great way of avoiding staff-to-client contact at reception desks.
Consistently monitor employee health/general circumstances
Monitoring the health of your employees is extremely important. Check in with staff daily. Ask about their health and general circumstances. If an employee is unwell, or if someone in their household has symptoms, immediately grant them sick leave, as advised by the government.
Encourage your team to be open about their circumstance. Show understanding, and make it easy for individuals to request any time off they need.
I hope this 10-point guide will prove useful. What is important is that we all do everything we can to keep our team, our customers and our visitors safe. And remember to keep checking back on the government guidelines so you are fully up-to-date.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hugo Tilmouth is founder of CleanedUp, a spin-off of ChargedUp, Europe’s largest phone charging network. CleanedUp is focused on stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus by providing a network of hand sanitising dispensing stations in key locations across the country. https://www.cleanedup.green/