How to Return to Work Safely

More than a year after the U.S. reported its first coronavirus cases, many organizations are still using caution when welcoming employees back to their offices. While some businesses may not yet be ready for on-site office hours, it’s best for all organizations to be prepared for an eventual return as the vaccine becomes more widely available. Read on to learn more about employee confidence related to the return to work and how your business can ensure a safe and successful transition once the time comes.

Considering Employee Concerns

The outlook on employee confidence around returning to work is not encouraging. According to Honeywell’s global 2020 Building Occupant Survey Report, 83% of all respondents have continued to work inside a building either full or part time. Only 54% of them think their building management has taken steps to keep them safer.

Looking at U.S. workers, the majority do not have faith that changes made over the last year will remain in place. The report reveals that 61% of U.S. workers believe building management is more likely to make short-term changes in response to the pandemic versus long-term investments​. Additionally, 40% of all global respondents feel that building or facility management is responsible for implementing safeguards, rather than their employer.

The findings suggest that facility managers are facing an uphill battle, and that if they cannot continue to meet the new standard of cleanliness, employers may struggle to convince professionals to return to work.

Your Return-to-Work Plan

Your business can properly prepare for the return to in-office working by following these four recommendations:

Pivot to a daytime cleaning schedule.

Consider working with your cleaning service provider to develop a day-time cleaning schedule that showcases your commitment to curbing the spread of pathogens. Having cleaning professionals begin their work during the morning hours allows them to address high-touch surfaces while employees are present. These include door handles, desks, appliances, elevator buttons and more.

Confirm the use of safe and sustainable solutions.

Every cleaning program needs to consider the safety of cleaning staff and building occupants. Unfortunately, there are many products that can have a negative impact on indoor air quality, asthma, allergies and more. Confirm that your building service contractor uses safe and sustainable cleaners and disinfectants that meet efficacy standards. For example, electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS) are cleaners and disinfectants made from salt, water and electricity. The disinfectant can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in 60 seconds on pre-cleaned surfaces. It is also effective against Norovirus, which is one of the most difficult viruses to inactivate.

Consider social distancing guidelines.

It’s unlikely that your office will be ready to welcome back every employee due to occupancy concerns. To make employees feel comfortable working around others again, develop a plan for social distancing that includes a rotating schedule to limit the total number of occupants in the building at a time. Revise the floor plan and include floor markings to ensure employees have a reasonable amount of distance from others. Wall signage, email reminders and table tents on desk can all be helpful for notifying people of the social distancing precautions.

Determine your mask policy.

Wearing a face mask is simple, yet lifesaving according to multiple studies. In fact, the United States is experiencing historically low flu activity this season in part because people are wearing masks. Depending on the size of your organization, consider requiring employees to wear masks for the duration of the workday. You may determine that masks in common areas is more appropriate instead. Whatever policy you put in place, be sure that employees also have access to hand hygiene essentials like soap and sanitizer so that they can further reduce the spread of germs.

A Successful Transition from Remote to In-person Work

Whether your business is planning to return to work after COVID-19 or during the pandemic, there are necessary steps that you need to take to ensure employee wellbeing. Working with a qualified and professional service provider to develop a comprehensive plan will help provide peace of mind and reduce risk. Your return-to-work program should include cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, regular restocking of essentials and adherence to health and safety guidelines. Not only will employees be happy that the organization is considering their needs, they’ll be able to focus more on their work, thereby enhancing productivity and profitability.

Get your business ready for the return of employees with support from GSF-USA. For more information, contact the GSF office nearest you. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest updates.