A Complete Guide for Reopening Offices during the Pandemic: Safety and Security perspective

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Walking down the hallway with your black coffee in your hand, browsing your socials and checking emails over the phone. You sit at your workstation and look to your calendars to check for the meetings you’ve got to attend. Seems too good to be true, right? But thanks to the existing pandemic, we are all jammed at our homes, attending meetings at our PJ’S, while managing kids or family and pets. No more group luncheons, chats by the water filters or those restroom gossip we looked forward to every day. Instead now we might welcome the new workspace strategy that would force us to confine and shrink ourselves to focus on avoiding contact and greet six feet away through our masks.

With workplaces opening, everyone needs to adjust with the new norms making sure rules like masks and social distancing are followed. This seems to be more than enough but there are a few more points to take care before we step into our freshly sanitized desks

We’ll discuss what steps any firm or even small businesses for that matter needs to take care, right from entry to the exit at the end of the day.

Starting from entry, anything that needs to be held or pushed, should be avoided or sanitized at regular intervals. Instead of using card swipes and biometric fingerprint scanners which would not be safe, using apps to access entry would be so much of a time money saver as no infrastructural changes are required. Installing thermal cameras and having temperature checkups at doors would be really helpful. Having the reception remove the seating and instead become a source backup for gloves, tissue wipes, face masks etc would be a better option. Replacing water and coffee stations and having workers bring their own sounds like a good idea as well.

Now coming to the workspace, arrangements should be made in such a way that it encourages the employees to follow social distancing. Having isolated work stations and furniture arranged six feet apart at least to avoid contact as much as possible. Physical barriers like plastic dividers would be really useful to guide customers or employees while walking. Workers need to use signs and gestures to maintain the proper distance while communicating with each other.

Meetings should be either avoided or held in open spaces. Using HVAC air filters instead of the traditional air conditioners and having open windows more often has shown in studies to lower the risk of transmission of the virus through the air. Educating all the workers about things like the symptoms, creating self awareness through group emails and posters really help in case targeting large numbers of workers.

When it comes to the management and HR, sick leaves will have to be raised in case of any worker infected or even down with the flu for that matter. Having people log in at different shift timing or staggered timings would help a lot, this way avoiding crowds at entrances, food courts and at other services. Using scans for payments in the food courts would save crowds and time as well. When it comes to business travels, management can look into ways to avoid and rely on the digital mediums for organizing meetings and if possible, remote working should be preferred in case of a high risk area.

The management should be performing frequent inspections regarding infrastructure, attend all the needs of maintenance which would allow the open window idea, stock the restrooms with paper towels, hand soaps and install local stations for sanitizing at common places like elevators, doors, parking lots etc. Unless really required, the management should be encouraging workers to use the staircase as much as they can thus avoiding people in an enclosed elevator. The restrooms should be disinfected more than usual along with making sure there are exhaust fans installed and running.

Apart from taking care of the infrastructure and sanitization, management also needs to make sure the workers are provided with all kinds of supports regarding mental health. Often workers might be experiencing issues regarding the pandemic or anything personal, which can be solved by having counseling services offered over call, video or email

Now we covered management and infrastructural things to be taken care of, there are many things a worker one can do. Avoiding crowded spaces as much as possible in places like conference rooms, elevators, parking lots, restrooms. When in food courts, sharing food or tables would not be plausible and should be steered clear of. Masks should be on even during breaks and washing hands in case of any contact are something every worker should be taking ownership on.

As an employer or employee for that matter, contact tracing should be a regular practice to quickly arrest the infected in case of any mishaps. This should not be a factor to ridicule among fellow workers, but something to be empathetic instead. Employees must have cheered upon practicing a healthy lifestyle personally and to be aware of all the guidelines presented by the management. As workers, avoid stepping into work when sick and practicing self-isolation would few things to take responsibility for. To avoid the risk of spreading the infection, each and every employee would have some role and is accountable for his or her own safety. The management would take care of almost everything, but these small practices would go a long way in saving ourselves from unnecessary trouble.

Summing up, joining your desk isn’t going to be a tough task if one takes all these measures, and makes it a point his workplace is following the guidelines. With the right strategy and precautionary steps, everyone can figure out a way to make this work. There are a few things the employers need to do, while there are things the workers need to do as well. Making sure little things like washing hands, social distancing and no contact rules would at least lessen the risk of coming across the infection. With these things, one could say things are going to be tough but not impossible.

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