Navigating the Effects of Covid-19 on Workplace Office Design
The last few months prompted a mass experiment in remote working worldwide. However, with COVID 19 infections flattening, talk of reopening office space to jumpstart the ailing economy is gaining momentum. There is no doubt the workplace will experience a more rapid and dramatic shift than it ever has before. As employers welcome people back to work, they are legally required to assess the COVID 19 outbreak risks and put steps in place to manage that risk. We will delve into the various steps businesses, and companies need to implement to be COVID 19 secure in the work environment:
Carry out a risk assessment
It is advisable to carry out a COVID 19 risk assessment of your workplace as soon as possible. Identify hazards that may raise the risk of infection and take action to prevent them. Your risk assessment procedures should also determine the staff to return to work and the vulnerable group to work remotely. You also need to decide whether to adopt a phased return to work or run a reduced service that lowers the risk of infections. Additionally, consider appointing a central point of contact and cross-functional emergency management team to address emerging issues from the workplace’s COVID 19 outbreak. The team should be given full authority to act quickly and decisively with changing information and circumstances around the COVID 19 pandemic.
Implement workplace controls
Once you have identified and assessed workplace risks, use the following control measures to mitigate them:
Engineering control measures - these control measures involve making physical changes at the workplace to put a barrier between the person and the hazard. For example, you can decide to install physical barriers like screens between workers. Other engineering control measures to implement include installing high-efficiency filters, installing drive-through windows for customer service, and increasing ventilation rates.
Administrative control measures - the administrative actions that lower the risk of infection in the workplace include keeping the workplace and equipment clean, redesigning the office workplace, and adjusting the workplace tasks and activities. It also involves training on safety measures and installing distance markings and signage on ideal areas. Other administrative control measures include encouraging sick workers to stay at home, discontinuing non-essential travels to COVID 19 epicentre locations, and training workers on the latest risk factors.
Personal protective equipment - you should also encourage the use of PPEs such as masks, gloves, and respirators at the workplace. But remember, PPEs will only be effective if workers use them correctly. While at it, provide resources and work environments that promote personal hygiene. Prioritize the provision of tissues, no-touch trash cans, alcohol-based hand rubs, disinfectants, and soap, running water, and disposable towels.
Decide who to return to work
Even in workplaces with a lower risk of infections, return to work needs to be a gradual process. A gradual process guarantees the health and safety measures you put in place are effective. A gradual return also ensures the workplace is safe for the entire workforce. Initially, encourage the essential staff to come to work while the vulnerable persons and those who can still work from home should be allowed to do so.
Replace sensitive touchpoints
Consider contracting an office fit out contractor to automate sensitive touch points via sensor activated doors, taps, and lights. Besides, the operations of shared facilities like lavatories, elevators, and kitchens should also be automated. You should also embrace new technologies such as voice-based interfaces that make things contactless. Maintain social distancing measures Social distancing measures play a critical role in the safety of the workers while at the workplace. You need to make sure the workers and customers are staying two meters apart from each other. To guarantee social distancing, consider putting markers in place. If you have limited workplaces, it is great to limit the number of workers to assess your workplace at a given time. Alternatively, you can use signage to remind people to maintain a safe distance from each other.
Implement additional hygiene measures
Hygiene in the workplace is crucial now more than ever before. It is imperative to increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning in the workplace. Ensure you provide workers, customers, and contractors with an ideal place to wash their hands using soap and running water. If the soap and water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs that come with at least 60 percent alcohol. Additionally, pay close attention to waste management procedures in the workplace. Employees and visitors should be encouraged to dispose of tissues and disposable PPEs into closed bins. Personal hygiene is the ideal weapon that will deal a big blow to the spread of the virus, and you should schedule regular meetings to sensitise workers on key personal hygiene measures to adopt.
Manage contractors, visitors, and customers
As you limit the number of employees returning to work, it is also essential to minimise unnecessary visits to the workplace. Communicate the social distancing requirements to customers and visitors and encourage them to access your services through alternative platforms like those offered by online tools. Ideally, to reduce the contact between people, introduce two-way routes through buildings that guarantee limited physical contact. It is also a great idea to stagger worker, contractor and visitor arrival and departure times and, where possible, plan work schedules so that there is no overlap.
Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick persons
You need to develop procedures and guidelines for prompt identification of ill persons within your premise. The foremost action is to take the temperatures of all persons accessing your facility. In the unfortunate event that a worker, visitor, or customer displays COVID 19 like symptoms, you need to take crucial steps to protect other persons within the work premises. Besides, you need to inform and encourage employees to self-monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID 19. You should also put in place policies and procedures that employees use to report whenever they are experiencing symptoms of COVID 19. Additionally, develop policies and procedures to immediately isolate people who have signs and symptoms of the viral disease. This calls for setting up designated areas that act as isolation rooms until the potentially sick person are removed from the workplace
Helping your workers return to work safely and confidently amidst the Corona pandemic is not an easy task. While business owners may feel a sense of urgency to reopen their operations, new guidelines and revised practices must be followed to make the workplace safe for stable return. As COVID 19 continues evolving, we learn more about the virus and best the techniques to mitigate its risk.