By Hugo Tilmouth, CleanedUp
If you’re the founder of a startup or run an established SME you’ll be excited at the prospect of getting your staff back into the workplace. However, we need to play safe and get everything in place. It is all about keeping you, your team, and your customers safe. Health & Safety is paramount.
In this article we’ll break down ten of the important steps to take today, providing a guideto help reopen as quickly and as safely as possible.
A quick note on the legal requirements of reopening during a pandemic
What follows is simply ouradvice on getting back to business. It’s important to read these guidelines in full yourself, before reopening — particularly regarding to the status of lockdown, which could quickly change.
1. Review all government guidelines
To get your business up and running your absolute first priority is to review and follow all government guidelines, so you comply with the law, and protect the safety of yourself, your staff and clients.
For offices and contact centres, for example, the government has released official guidelines that cover eight key sections, ranging from social distancing rulesto potential PPE requirements. Click here to access the entire document when drawing up your coronavirus action plan.
2. Conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment
As an employer, it is your legal responsibility to protect the wellbeing of staff, suppliers and clients and now it is even more important than ever.
Health and Safety Executive has issued new guidelines that require businesses to carry out new risk assessments in regards to COVID-19.
You can read their official guide for more informationon what this needs to cover specifically, and use this recommended template. Your coronavirus risk assessment should highlight everything you’re going to do to limit the risks of COVID-19 within your space including: enforcing social distancing rules, setting up precise cleaning procedures, providing the necessary PPE, and keeping your staff updated on how you’re going to protect them.
Once you’ve ticked those boxes, display the government’s risk assessment certificate, to help reassure your staff and clients.
3. Hand sanitising
Government guidelines advise that frequent handwashing is the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus. But frequent bathroom trips aren't always practical in a busy office — and that’s where hand sanitisers come in.
Hand sanitisers are a quick and easy alternative to handwashing, and provide an unbeatable solution for minimising the spread, and protecting staff and visitors from COVID-19.
When picking a hand sanitiser, it’s important to be sure that it contains a WHO approved formula and is at least 60% alcohol-based. You’ll also need to think about how the hand sanitiser is presented within your office.
Dispensing stations, for example, are a great idea, as they make it clear that hand sanitiser is available. Placing sanitiser dispensers near your front door, in kitchens, and around desk spaces, shows staff and clients how seriously you are taking the fight against coronavirus — you can even get dispenser units customised with your own corporate branding!
4. Cleaning & disinfecting
In any workplace, cleanliness has always been important. But now, it’s life-saving.
Keeping your surfaces COVID-secure is going to be a team effort. So, create a clear and focused rota, outlining everythingthat needs doing.
First, you’ll need to focus on the key surfaces that pose the most risk, computer desks, keyboards, kitchen worktops and any communal office equipment (like pens and notebooks). Ideally, these should be cleaned after every use. That’s why a rota is so important — it’ll help to organise whose responsibility that is throughout the day.
Next, you should create procedures that encourage cleanliness more generally. Really ramp up your toilet cleaning schedule. And ask your staff to wipe down their desks as much as possible — especiallyif they’re working a shift, picking up from someone else, or preparing to hand over to a colleague.
Government guidelines advise that your ‘usual cleaning products’will be sufficient for this, so don’t worry about buying any specific formulas. So long as you stick to bleach or alcohol-based solutions, your efforts will be effective.
“Hot desking” or sharing of workstations should be avoided for the time being if at all possible.And if your office has a cafeteria, be extra vigilant that it follows all government guidelines for food hygienebefore resuming service.
Government guidelinesstipulate that PPE is only essential in medical environments (other than the new rules for face masks in shops coming in from 24thJuly 2020). However, staff (and clients) might feel more comfortable wearing a face covering. Talk to your team and make face masks available.
6. Flexible work arrangements
Government rules state that all businesses must provide flexible work arrangements whenever possible. This means allowing your staff to continue working from home if they can.
It’s important to retain some flexibility, especially for those at higher risk.Be understanding of people’s home-lives; if they care for a friend, or home-school children, support them in this.
Remember, it’s still mandatory for those with a fever or new, persistent cough to self-isolate.
7. Enforce social distancing rules
Official government guidelines state that all staff and visitors must keep a 1m (in England) or 2m (elsewhere) distance at all times.
To enforce social distancing measures:
● Provide 1m / 2m markers that remind staff, clients and any visitors
● Be mindful of the amount of staff working each day/shift
● Space out desks as much as possible
● Consider alternate ‘work from home’ days if space is tight
Break areas should be reassessed, too.
8. Clear guidelines and signage throughout your premises
It’s still wise to leave health and hygiene reminders around your office e.g. the 1m / 2m markings mentioned, poster reminders to wash/sanitise hands, always cover your mouth when coughing, and sneeze either into a tissue or your arm.
If you implement new procedures, like a closure of communal kitchen areas, make this as clear as possible.
9. Manage the risk of transmission
When, or if, 1m / 2m distancing isn’t possible, do all you can to manage the risk of transmission by providing alternative ways of working that put the safety first.
If your office gets easily crowded, encourage working from home and/or take client meetings off-site, in an outdoor area of a local cafe.
Plexiglass screens are a great way of avoiding staff-to-client contact at reception desks.
10. Consistently monitor employee health/general circumstances
Monitoring the health of your employees is extremely important. Check in with staff daily. Ask about their health and general circumstances. If an employee is unwell, or if someone in their household has symptoms, immediately grant them sick leave, as advised by the government.