Maintaining a safe place to work post COVID19 is possible

Author Yodit Stanton

Published on May 2020

Reading time 4 minutes
The return to work post COVID19, will undoubtedly require adaptation following the sudden changes currently implemented. When considering returning to work certain elements need to be taken into account to ensure efficient facility management.

3 main components to operate post COVID19

  • How to come back into the workplace
  • How to manage the workplace
  • How to divide the workplace
It's paramount to note that a well planned return is not only limited to facility management but also includes the wellbeing of workers.

How to return to work?

Deep cleaning and disinfecting needs to be done not only before but also during the return to work. Common areas, if any, such as kitchen and canteen areas, phone booths, collaborative zones as well as small gathering areas need to be disinfected fervidly. Places with constant foot traffic such as elevators and/or stairs also need to be cleaned and wiped down frequently. 
Moreover, with social distancing still of utmost importance, it will be primordial to alleviate the traffic coming into the workplace by implementing a phased approach to the return of the selected employees, especially when dealing with a larger operation.
Preliminary assurance of the Health status of employees scheduled to return to work should override all else, all the while maintaining the confidentiality and the trust that employees deserve. Additionally, it is important to provide, upon request, access to mental health care post COVID19 to facilitate ease into the workplace. This will not only ensure the continuation of the business in the long term but also create the value of trust for staff and everyone who needs to come into contact with the business. 

Maintaining a safe workplace 

Once the business would have shifted, though not fully, from a ‘work from home’ (WFH) operation to a ‘return to work’ (RTW) operation, there needs to be an efficient facility management system in place. 
Traffic control is one way of accurately limiting contact between staff and the possible risk of having many people in a confined space at once post COVID19 lockdown.
Recommended measures to control traffic in the workplace include:
  1. 2 meter (6 ft) distance between people respected at all times (in workstation and open areas)
  2. 1 person per elevator
  3. One way traffic patterns
  4. Separation of Entrances and Exits 
While the traffic control measures are a great way to ensure limited contact among staff and space occupants it is important to differentiate when it is necessary to be in the workspace and when it is not. 

What space management?

The Key is to identify the type of operation and to understand how to best divide the different departments, to ensure a smooth return to work. It is also crucial to substitute meetings with teleconferencing alternatives when possible and/or reduce the number of attendees.
Some departments or tasks may not require an immediate return to work, hence the possibilities of continuing work from home can be considered. Depending on the workplace occupancy this is where the phase by phase approach of the return to work comes into play. 
In open plan offices either a weekly shuffle or a distinct divide in the operations workforce is crucial to ensure that the required distance is maintained. 
In addition to alternating staff via a clearly communicated and easily accessible rota, the office open plan also needs to be organised in a safe and health hazard free manner. 

Office Open Plan Facility Management

  • 2 meters between workspaces (desks)
  • Protected workstations with sneeze guards
  • Available sanitiser bottles in proximity to workstations
  • Disinfectant wipes for desks, monitors, chairs in proximity to workstations
  • Mounted hand sanitisers at entrances, exits of doorways and elevators
Just as the start of a work day, each end of the work day needs to be followed up by similar cleaning and disinfecting measures. All paper, pens and other material left on workstations will need to be binned. Kitchen and common areas will also need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly and all leftover items will need to be discarded at the end of each work day - once operations are terminated. 
With the three elements complete and taken into account, the return to work post COVID19 will be easier for businesses. It is important to ensure that all necessary supplies (from cleaning to office supplies) are well stocked and ready. This will avoid unnecessary additional contact with the outside.
Ensuring that approved health messaging and structural strategies are easily accessible by all staff will also come in handy to ensure that everyone is well informed and up to date. Maintaining the physical and mental health of employees is guaranteeing the success of a business in the long run.

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Topics: Facilities & Workplace trends, COVID19, Guidance

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