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It’s been about three months since most of the world started facing the day-to-day consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. While many of us have been struggling with the challenge of reshaping our entire ways of working - from an office environment to our kitchen tables - we’re now facing an entirely new and possibly more complex issue: safely returning to the office in a society still disrupted by a deadly pandemic that's still lurking around the corner. While many of us are still working from home, more and more offices are opening their doors again. But post-lockdown, we can’t simply return to living our lives like we did before. Before going back to the office, here are some things to consider.
If possible, just stay home
For some people, working from home brings along a significant drawbacks. One reason to return to your office may be, for example, the access to certain tools or programs you don’t have at home, but are necessary to perform your job in an optimal way. However, if working from home doesn’t considerably impact the quality of your work, it’s better to avoid the office as much as possible. The tight quarters of an office space is generally a prime place for the spread of diseases, as many people move through the same tight spaces multiple times a day.
Although rules are slowly but steadily loosening up, the virus is still active, and people can still get infected. The fact that COVID-19 cases are decreasing doesn’t imply the crisis is over. We are nowhere near returning to our lives before the pandemic. So, better safe than sorry, and stay home if you can.
Manage employee numbers
In case it’s really necessary to return to the workfloor, and no other options are available, it’s essential to make sure to keep it “social distancing”-proof. Employers will have to make sure that they manage the number of employees they are welcoming back to the office. Discuss and make rotating schedules with your colleagues to make sure the amount of people in one office sticks to a strictly limited number. You can choose for yourself if this rotation happens on a daily, weekly, or other basis, depending on the needs and preferences of you and your colleagues. As an employee, make sure to involve your manager with your plans regarding your return. This way he or she can schedule the rotation based on everyone’s input, and avoid accidental overload.
While managing employee numbers, it’s also of great importance that all of these employees are on the same line regarding rules and agreements of hygiene and physical closeness. Many offices follow official governmental guidelines for the prevention of the further spread of COVID-19. These guidelines are a great place to start your planning.
Educate yourself and your team
Most likely the best way to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the workplace is to raise awareness about the disease and ways to prevent it from entering the workplace in the first place. As an employer, here are some tips to keep COVID-19 from entering your office:
- Educate your team. Make sure that everyone is up-to-date with the signs and symptoms, together with all the preventive measures they can take themselves for preventing the spread of infection.
- Implement strict rules about employees that feel ill or show symptoms. Any symptom related to COVID-19 should be taken seriously, and kept outside of the workplace at all times.
- Educate and enforce the social distancing guidelines set forth by your government. In our case, that’s 1,5 meters, but that may differ for you. As mentioned earlier, encourage your team to work from home, if possible.
- Limit business travel among your employees. Employees that have to spend a significant time traveling back and forth between the office and home - especially with public transport - are generally exposed to a significantly greater amount of people. Even though most public transport organizations have taken measures to reduce the risk of infection, it’s still recommended to only travel for urgent reasons.
- Stimulate the overall hygiene in the office with providing disposable tissues, hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap and disinfectant wipes available for every individual employee.
- Let your employees stay aware of their own contact tracking. As an employer, you can only do so much to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workspace, ultimately it’s up to each individual to follow best practices inside and outside the office. Educate your team about the risks of physical contact, and stimulate them to stick to a limited amount of close contacts outside of the office.
Redesign your office space for social distancing
Especially when your office is normally packed with people working all over the place, it’s important to take a good look at the design of your office space. Consider rearranging desks so that each employee has at least 1.5 meters separation from their neighbors on all sides. Also, discourage the sharing of equipment and tools between employees. In case the office is limited in space, plexiglass screens between the workplaces can also contribute to the reduction of the spread of bacteria and viruses through the air.
The past few months have been challenging, and we’re nowhere near the end of it. We shouldn’t underestimate the consequences a worldwide crisis such as this brings along, both physically and mentally. Before forcing ourselves to immediately dive back into our pre-pandemic working lives, it’s important to keep our sanity in check. While working from home for at least two months, we’ve gotten used to new schedules, new habits, new structures, new plannings, etc. And we shouldn’t underestimate the effect this might have on our performance once we’re back in the office. We all should take the time to rewire our busy brains and make the transition a diligent one.
We’re here for you
Although some of our Lizards are already (safely) back in the office, many of us are still working just as efficiently and effectively from home. We have been, and continue to be, fully open for business! There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and we continue to work hard to provide our partners with cutting-edge technology. Got a question? We’re always here to help you find the answer. Contact us via the contact form on our website, or send a message on our social media channels. Stay safe!