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The leaves are changing and the weather is cooling. And now, in fall 2020, many employers have decided to bring their employees back to the office. However, are you concerned about how to keep your office safe this fall and winter?
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We all understand that cooler weather poses new risks. The coronavirus spreads easily in enclosed spaces. As employers and business owners we’re in uncharted territory when it comes to keeping our offices safe.
Keeping your office safe this fall and winter is a matter of making a measured, actionable plan and following through. We’ve outlined our best tips for reducing your COVID-19 risks below.
1. Pay Attention to Air Quality
Maintaining good indoor air quality is essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Before moving back into your office, check the basic air quality metrics. Think fresh air volume, fan capacity, and filtration effectiveness. Air quality is a place where many organizations cut costs to save on electricity or filter-replacement expenses. Therefore, be sure to double-check if you’re working in a rented building.
According to a recent article from Fast Company, many businesses are retrofitting their office spaces with powerful HVAC systems with filters and UV light sterilization. However, office safety is not only about air quality. Humidity also plays a role in the spread of the virus.
Stephanie Taylor, infection control consultant at Harvard Medical School, is petitioning alongside companies that make sensors and humidifiers to improve air quality. She is also working toward having the CDC and WHO adopt guidelines around safe humidity levels. Specifically, that indoor humidity should be kept between 40 to 60 percent.
2. Introduce New Cleaning Policies to Keep the Office Safe
Frequent cleaning of dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is considered best practice for preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When it comes to keeping your office safe, frequent cleaning is crucial.
Many businesses are already changing the way they clean their office space. According to a recent survey from the office safety experts at SERVPRO, 83 percent of businesses are investing more in cleaning measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In fact, 63 percent now clean their office space several times per day.
3. Conduct Thorough Screening for Better Office Safety
COVID-19 is a disease that spreads through interaction. Therefore, it’s important to know exactly who is coming and going in your office. This is especially true if you’re staggering your return to the workplace and workers are sharing desks.
According to a recent article from Forbes, “Many organizations are conducting body temperature tests before allowing workers, vendors, or customers into a space. Some go even further, preparing for biometric screenings via rapid testing for active infection.”
These measures detect if someone has COVID-19 before they enter the building. They are already in place at the White House, hospitals, and some commercial facilities.
4. Combat Presenteeism
For many employees, the transition back to the workplace will be fraught with emotion, especially when “pushing through” illness and showing up no matter what is part of your company’s culture.
However, in terms of office safety, it has never been more important for employees who feel sick to stay home. Wharton Business School management professor Stephanie Creary says, “Managers must send the message that the act of showing up is not considered an indicator of how committed a worker is to the job. Otherwise, you will just have people showing up at work who should really be staying home. There has to be a cultural change around when it’s okay to come to work and when it’s not okay to come to work.”
For many employees, returning to work isn’t just about hand sanitizer, face masks, and the pre-work temperature check. Coming back to work will be emotional, and as managers and business owners it’s up to you to make sure that your employees feel safe at the office. Offering a list of actionable steps that your company is taking will go a long way in ensuring that your employees feel safe to come back to work this autumn.