As many parts of the country continue to reopen, employers are looking at plans to bring staff back to work. But business operations won’t look like they did pre-pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid out some specific guidelines for safely reopening office spaces.
While reopening your business might provide the financial relief you need and be welcome by customers and employees, it’s vital that you have a safely prepared office space before moving forward. If you’re struggling with where to start, here are some of the guidelines for offices you should follow.
Create Your Re-Opening Plan
The CDC recommends that employers create a comprehensive plan before reopening their offices that includes building management. Identify any unique hazards that may have developed in your space while it has been unoccupied for several weeks or months. Is there stagnant water, mold, or critters present? You’ll want to address these matters before bringing employees back to work.
Improve Office Air Ventilation
Once you’ve addressed any issues related to having a dormant building, The CDC recommends that building owners and managers look at ways to improve indoor ventilation. This is not only better for overall health, but it will also reduce the airborne spread of a virus like COVID-19. Ways to accomplish this include:
- Review your HVAC system to ensure it is optimizing the flow of outdoor air;
- Open windows whenever possible to dilute indoor air and improve natural ventilation;
- Inspect filter housings and increase air filtration;
- Consider bringing in portable HEPA filtration/fan systems to enhance air filtration; and
- Redirect air flow between office spaces whenever possible.
Re-arrange Schedules and Physical Workspaces
If your office space was packed to the gills before COVID-19 arrived, you will need to re-think your strategy. Some positions might continue in a remote working capacity to free up space. You can also consider a split schedule at work to reduce the number of people in the office at once.
The CDC recommends that businesses redesign and rearrange office spaces to reduce the chance of virus transmission. Some of their recommendations include:
- Enforce social distancing by moving workstations and seats at least six feet apart;
- Consider installing transparent shields and other physical barriers;
- Post signs and visual cues directing traffic in the office;
- Limit the use of elevators in office buildings;
- Encourage the use of outdoor areas for breaks, lunches, and meetings; and
- Offer pre-packaged, single-serve items instead of communal snacks, coffee pots, and water coolers.
Train Employees in Safe Operations
No employee is going to return work understanding what they should and shouldn’t do. The CDC recommends that businesses post guidelines and provide training on new safety protocols. Some of the workplace polices the CDC recommends include:
- Daily temperature and symptom screening for in-office staff;
- A requirement to wear masks or face coverings in the office, in common areas, or around customers;
- Prohibiting hugs, handshakes, and fist bumps in the office;
- Reminding employees to wash and sanitize hands often;
- Incentivizing employees to avoid public transportation in the short-term; and
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces.
Getting your office space prepared for a return to work is going to require some adjustments. You might need more, less, or just different space to accommodate these changes and the “new normal.”
At Carolina Services Inc. (CSI), we have been helping businesses throughout the Charleston, SC area with all of their commercial property needs for over 40 years. We offer commercial construction, renovation, and property management services you need to be successful in good times and more challenging ones. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.