The vaccine rollout across the world has led many companies to announce a gradual transition back to work from the office. Some are considering a hybrid model—a mix of some days at home, some in the office in a week.
Transitioning employees safely back into an office setting will not be about just lights on and opening of doors. There are steps companies need to take to prepare for a new working mode. The pandemic is yet not over and will take a long time to fade away, and workplaces need to be prepared to handle this new situation.
Employers have a multitude of challenges to meet within a short span of time–a remote workforce, new HR policies, leave framework, liabilities and more.
Here are some guidelines to follow for a healthy and safe work environment:
- Staying informed on the latest news and health guidance from your area is essential.
- Prepare the physical workplace for the return of employees. Partition the workplace if possible with plexiglass enclosures. Have at least a two-meter or 6 feet distance between workstations. If a massive restructuring is not possible, then adopt the hybrid model and scatter attendance or have rotating shifts. Discourage congregations.
- Maintain strict hygiene, keep sanitizers available. See that there is adequate ventilation. Ensure proper cleaning and frequent sanitization of the workplace, particularly of the frequently touched surfaces.
- Have a testing protocol in place. Periodic testing will catch any infection in the bud.
- Take a relook at the leave policies. With quarantine recommended for any exposure, a working model needs to be worked out.
- Create a company task force to look into all aspects of the return to work policies. These should include representatives from the management, legal department, payroll/HR, facilities and the IT department.
- A risk assessment of the office should be done in accordance with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations to identify all potential COVID-19 hazards and formulate a plan accordingly.
- It would be prudent to appoint a Covid-19 point of contact in the office. This person should be fully conversant with all the virus-related guidelines, health help, and any other queries that pertain to it. He or she should be the person who can direct you with the right information.
- Ensure proper cleaning and frequent sanitization of the workplace, particularly of the frequently touched surfaces.
There is a consensus over the fact that we are moving towards a new reality in the workspace. Social distancing or remote offices are the new reality of the workforce. Most corporate and businesses are now offering the hybrid model of working. This allows for social distancing and minimizes the risks and hazards of contracting the virus.
Service providers and service seekers all should come together to make the new norm as workable as possible with a legal framework to govern it. Adopting guidelines provided by WHO, central and local governments, and changes in our day-to-day etiquette would go a long way in handling this health crisis.