Returning to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic
The retail and hospitality industries have had to adapt fairly quickly to the coronavirus pandemic in order to keep staff and customers safe, but now offices are having to get themselves back up to speed as workers slowly make the transition from furlough or working from home, back to the office environment.
How can you keep your employees safe as they begin to spend many hours a day indoors with more and more people? Although many companies may choose to keep staff working from home for longer, or create a rota system for the office to ensure that there is sufficient space inside to accommodate social distancing, you still need to make sure that everybody who chooses to work from the office feels safe doing so.
Here we will present a number of measures you can implement in your COVID back to work plan to keep your employees and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implement a clear wayfinding system
Your employees must be aware of your hygiene and social distancing measures as soon as they step back through the door of the building.
Use your reception area to display clear signage which provides all the information employees need to stay safe while at work. Roller banners are a great way to grab attention and provide plenty of space for your messages.
You can also use sign holders such as snap frames and pavement signs to ensure that everyone sees your messages before they enter the wider office and start interacting with colleagues. Wayfinding signage is essential to helping employees navigate around the office building in a way that avoids unnecessary contact with others. This type of signage comes in many forms, from floor stickers to queue barriers.
One way floor stickers are very useful for implementing a one way system, as they are a temporary solution that can be reversed or altered very quickly. Hazard warning floor tape can be used to tape off areas that are currently off limits or to create a clear pathway for staff to stick to while walking around the office. A great way to use it is to tape a 2 metre distance around each team member's desk to show how close others should get to them.
Protective equipment and social distancing measures
Once you have established your wayfinding strategy and put up the required signage for this, you need to focus on implementing hygiene measures. We have all become accustomed to wearing a mask or face shield when indoors, whether we’re shopping or getting our hair cut. However, it might not be feasible to ask your employees to wear masks for around eight hours a day, so you will need to ensure that there are plenty of other mitigation strategies in place to keep everybody safe.
"[O]ther measures [hand washing and social distancing] remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments."- Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy .
Hand hygiene is critical to preventing the spread of coronaviruses. Studies have shown that if we wash our hands at least six times a day, the risk of catching COVID-19 reduces by a third . Place hand sanitising stations at key areas around the office to encourage your colleagues to maintain good hygiene. They should be placed in areas which are high risk from contamination, including entrance ways, toilets and kitchens.
UK POS has a wide range of hand sanitiser dispensers that are suitable for use in offices, with options for counter standing, freestanding and wall mounted unit fixings. Some of our dispensers are available with custom branding, so you can personalise messages to your staff.
With face masks not a viable long term option, desk dividers can provide a safe barrier between staff sat close to each other. These opaque or clear screens form a physical barrier between colleagues at a desk to prevent the spread of a virus in aerosol droplets emitted in coughs, sneezes or simply breathing. They can be used when team members are sat opposite or next to each other. Social distancing will still need to be maintained.
Please note that this information was correct at the time of publication. We recommend checking gov.uk to ensure the guidance you use is up to date.
1. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID 19)’ (May 2020), https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres#offices-3-1 [accessed September 2020].
2. Laura Donnelly, ‘Washing your hands more than six times a day cuts coronavirus risk by a third, study finds’,The Telegraph (May 2020), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/19/washing-hands-six-times-day-cuts-coronavirus-risk-third-study/ [accessed September 2020].