Preparing your office for COVID19

Shops are opening up. Those who can’t work from home are heading back to the office and it is the employer’s responsibility to keep those people safe.

I have been helping to get these spaces ready and I thought this check list may help you to keep everyone safe.

Let’s imagine a day in this ‘new normal’ first of all how do you or your employees or clients get to your place of work?

  • Walking is the dream- can you offer encouragement? but unfortunately not suitable for all.
  • Bike. Again, fantastic if distance allows, does your shop/ office have provision to lock up or store bikes?
  • Travelling from further afield or if you have disabilities then transport is required. Public transport is suddenly the devil, you are much safer in a car on your own and so we can expect a lot more cars. Does your shop/office have enough parking?
  • Are there going to be busy parts of the days which could cause people to get too close? Could you introduce a system to stagger the arrival and departures?
Cycling to work

So now we have the people at your place of work. What is next?

  • Handwashing. This is still absolutely vital (running water, soap and paper towels) at entry/exit points. People should be able to wash their hands when they get to work and leave. If this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser.
  • We are all well drilled on the 2m rule but how can you organise your work area so that you can keep people apart?
  • Physically arrange work areas to keep people 2 m apart;
  • Mark areas using floor paint or tape to help people keep a 2 m distance;
  • Provide signage to remind people to keep a 2 m distance;
  • Avoid people working face-to-face, for example working side-by-side.
  • Where you cannot keep a 2 m physical distance, you should think about:
  • Assigning one person per work area;
  • Reducing the number of people in the work area;
  • Assigning and keeping people to shift teams. (People on the same shift working in the same teams, to limit social interaction);
  • Using screens to create a physical barrier between people.
Regular hand washing

You now need to plan how you are going to maintain the space. All of the above will not keep COVID at bay unless it is kept clean to prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.

  • Decide on how frequently you need to clean the work area, equipment and vehicles.
  • Cleaning at the end of each use if equipment is shared between people;
  • Identify objects and surfaces that are touched regularly and decide how frequently you clean them;
  • Provide hand sanitiser for people getting in and out of vehicles or handling deliveries, if they are unable to wash their hands.
  • Keep the number of people that use a piece of equipment to a minimum ie. One phone per person.
  • Reduce the number of people in high traffic areas including lifts, corridors, turnstiles and walkways.

Common areas. You may well be in a shared building in which case you would need to speak to the landlord or agent about these points. Common areas include meeting rooms, canteens, toilets, showers, and changing facilities.

  • Physically move tables/chairs so they are 2 m apart;
  • Staggered breaktimes or provide additional space so that people are not using break rooms etc at the same time;
  • Use outside areas for breaks if the locations are suitable and it is safe to do so;
  • Encouraging workers to stay on-site during working hours;
  • Keep doors and windows open to increase the number of air changes in the space.

In general, it is all about keeping to the same government guidance that we have all become used to at home. Lots of hand washing, keep 2m apart, think before you touch anything and keep everything clean. One for me is definitely regular reminders on avoiding touching your face! I can’t believe how often I need to do this!   

From my experience so far, I would say that once people get into their familiar work environment and are concentrating on their work activities it is very easy to forget these simple but vital points.

Signage and creating a culture of open conversation about the requirements is key to a safe work environment.  

A last note on air conditioning. Air conditioning could help to reduce your risk by increasing the amount of air changes per hour in that space. However, it will depend on how clean the system is- when was it last serviced? Where the air intake is coming from- in a shared building this maybe outside of your control. What grade of filters are in the system? If they are dense enough, they could filter out the contamination.

All businesses must complete a risk assessment and there is a handy template here.