As a Small - Medium Business Owner, what steps should I take before returning to work?

As a lot of businesses are slowly starting to reopen, the safety of their people, customers, suppliers, and anyone visiting their office is top priority. It is important to maintain employee’s confidence levels in the safety of their workplace. One of the first areas to address is the coronavirus risk assessment.

Step 1. Carry out Coronavirus risk assessment in line with HSE guidance as recommended by the Government

As a Small – Medium Business Owner, before restarting office, you should ensure the safety of the workplace with COVID-19 Risk Assessment. It is also important to share the results of the risk assessment with your employees and advisable to display on your website for added confidence.

If you have already started your office, you need to carry out the risk assessment now to ensure that you’re working safely.

Next step would be to assess if majority of your employees can still continue Working from Home, and only those employees come to office where necessary.

Step 2. Help your staff to continue working from home where possible

As a Small – Medium Business Owner, you should take all practical steps to help your employees to continue working from home. In order to do that, you can:

  • Discuss their home working arrangements and if they could be made better
  • Make sure that your employees have the right equipment to Work from Home. Example remote access to work systems, drives and emails
  • Actively include them in all necessary work and company communications
  • Look after their mental and physical wellbeing and provide help where required

Next steps are to ensure that your workplace is correctly prepared for your and your employee’s safe return to work and the new ways of working which could be the new normal.

Step 3. Implement stringent cleaning, handwashing and hygiene practices

  • Encourage your employees to follow hand washing practice as recommended by NHS
  • Provide pocket size hand sanitiser, touch-free hand sanitiser in washrooms and other strategic central areas within the office premises
  • Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect surfaces which are often touched like door handles, lift buttons etc.
  • Ensure that the busy areas in your office are cleaned more regularly
  • Set clear rules for use of the toilet and strict guidance for cleaning toilets
  • Provide proper hand drying facilities (obviously, if you don’t have them already) like paper towels or electric hand dryers. In case of electric hand dryers, make sure they work.

Step 4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible

Once your office is prepared to receive your staff, further care needs to be taken to maintain 2m Social Distancing where possible:

  • Get an expert to re-plan the office space to maintain 2m social distance between workstations where possible
  • Avoiding hot-desking or sharing workstations with anyone
  • Put signs or roll-up banners in all strategic places reminding people of social distancing guidelines
  • Use stickers or vinyl to clearly mark 2m distance on the floor
  • Arrange a one-way traffic system / movement through your workplace if possible
  • Seeing visitors by appointment only if possible

Step 5. If employees cannot be 2m apart, as a business owner you should do everything possible to manage transmission risk

  • Evaluate whether that particular activity or operation needs to continue for the business to function
  • If the activity is critical, keep the activity time as short as possible
  • Using protective screens or individual work pods to separate people from each other
  • If possible, re-arrange seating to back-to-back or side-to-side working
  • Staggering employees’ arrival and departure times
  • Get people to work in ‘fixed teams or with fixed partners’ to reduce the number of people they have contact with

We can already see that the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major shift in how we experience the world and the work. So, when this global crisis actually ends, there could be a permanent change in the way we work which will affect how workplaces are designed. However fundamental the change, one thing we know is that the offices and workplaces still matter. The feeling of community, belonging, and relationships with colleagues who become friends is still what the workplace is all about.

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