How to Keep Employees Safe as Companies Return to the Office

Because COVID-19 forced many companies to require their employees to work from home, organizations around the world are now thinking about how to bring employees back to their pre-pandemic offices while creating a safe and healthy work environment.

To do this successfully, workplace procedures and customs may look a little different now, and even in the future. Companies will need to carefully evaluate every component of their offices, from furniture arrangements, to shift schedules, to how employees get work supplies.

We’ve put together some tips that can help keep employees safe upon returning to the office. Here’s a few of our top recommendations, and you can also check out the CDC’s guidelines for additional information on how to safely prepare offices:

  • Evaluate common areas and group spaces

Identify all the common areas in your office—such as meeting rooms, break rooms, kitchens, cafeterias or waiting areas—where employees or visitors could come in close contact with others. If employees must use these areas, install methods to physically separate employees in these areas, such as glass barriers, or visual cues like tape or signs that indicate 6-feet spacing. Stagger room use times and reduce meeting sizes as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to consider replacing high-touch community items, such as coffee pots, water machines, and snacks, with alternatives like disposable cups or pre-packaged food. Stagger start times and break times as much as possible to avoid overcrowding in common areas like entries and exits.

  • Modify employee seating

Adjust employee desks, chairs and other furniture to maintain 6 feet between each employee’s workstation. Install transparent shields to separate employees seated next to each other and arrange reception area chairs or group meeting room chairs to be six feet apart. You may need to remove extra chairs or cover them with tape to ensure people don’t use them. If it’s not possible to maintain social distancing, consider grouping employees and having each group alternate which days of the week they come into the office.

  • Take advantage of automation for supply distribution

Automated supply distribution is an effective way to ensure safe, contactless distribution of essential supplies, such as employee laptops, IT peripherals or other industry-specific supplies like PPE equipment. For example, IVM’s automated smart lockers allow for social distancing in the workplace by taking out unnecessary human interaction—employees can quickly get the tools they need from a machine, without talking face-to-face to other employees or passing equipment from one set of hands to another.

  • Develop a plan for regular cleaning of surfaces

You should plan to ensure surfaces within the office are cleaned on a regular basis. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, phones, doorknobs or printers. For disinfecting surfaces, use EPA-registered household disinfectants, or diluted household bleach solutions or alcohol solutions. Provide your employees with their own set of disinfecting wipes so they can regularly clean their workspaces or high touch areas and have plenty of hand sanitizer and antibacterial hand soap available throughout the office. Make sure employees and IT staff are also appropriately cleaning laptops, keyboards, and phones.

  • Maximize air circulation within the office

Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible within the office. If you can safely open windows, entry ways, or patio doors around the office, doing so can maximize air circulation for employees and those who enter the office. For offices in high rise buildings or that do not have safe access to the outdoors, invest in large fans and discuss with building maintenance how to best circulate clean air.

At IVM, we’ve always been focused on transforming workplaces, and today’s environment is no different. Our business is all about providing safe and efficient supply distribution. We know companies across the globe continue to focus on the health and safety of their employees and ensuring they have what they need to do their jobs safely. If you have any questions or would like to have a conversation, please reach out to us!