Returning to the Office After Lockdown: How to Prepare a Covid-Safe Workplace for Your Business

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 91% of the world's population was under travel or mobility restrictions.

Schools shut. Businesses closed their doors. Those who could work from home did so. Millions more suddenly found themselves without a job.

Here in Australia, the good news is that there's finally light at the end of the tunnel. While restrictions continue to come and go in response to the virus, many businesses are now able to reopen their doors.

Of course, reopening is contingent on creating a COVID-safe workplace. Until researchers find a cure, it's up to us to do what we can to slow the spread of the disease.

What do you need to do to ensure compliance and keep your staff and customers safe? Read on for your guide to a COVID-safe business.

Creating a COVID-Safe Workplace

Since 13 September 2020, every business in Victoria with more than 5 employees is required to have a COVIDSafe Plan. This must include specific steps you'll take to prevent the spread of the virus in your workplace, as well as how you'll respond to any suspected or confirmed cases.

That sounds simple in theory, but what does that mean in real life? The Australian government has provided many resources to help business owners with their reopening efforts.

Here are the key facts you need to know.

1. Focus on Slowing the Spread

The first part of your plan must focus on practical steps you'll take to slow the spread of coronavirus. This could include:

  • Providing hand sanitizer dispensers at all entrances
  • Increased cleaning efforts (multiple times per day)
  • Frequent sanitizing and disinfecting of high-touch areas 
  • Opening windows or adjusting the HVAC system to improve airflow
  • Ensuring all staff members wear proper face coverings
  • Restructuring your office layout to accommodate physical distancing

Your specific plan will differ depending on the type of business you run (office, warehouse, restaurant, etc). The idea is to take all reasonable steps to protect everyone who enters your workplace.

2. Ensure Physical Distancing

Physical distancing is the primary defence against coronavirus, so this should be the focus of your reopening plan. Take a look at your business and think of ways to ensure everyone stays at least 1.5 meters apart. 

In an enclosed workspace, there should be no more than one person for every four square meters of floor space. This might involve restructuring your office layout or creating one-way doorways and corridors. Encourage everyone to have lunch at their desk or outside, rather than congregating in the break room.

If your office has a reception desk, you'll need a clear sneeze guard to provide a protective barrier between staff and visitors. These are also an ideal solution between desks or other workspaces where physical distancing is a challenge. They require no tools or screws to assemble and they can be made in any size your business needs.

3. Encourage Good Hygiene

The next item on your reopening checklist is equipping your staff with everything they need to practice good hygiene habits. Hang posters that show the proper way to wash hands and allow frequent breaks for them to do so. Provide hand sanitizer at all building entrances and other strategic locations.

Remind your staff to avoid touching their eyes or face. If they must sneeze or cough, they should use a tissue or their elbow (and wash their hands immediately afterwards).

Ensure everyone has their own supply of common items (pens, tools, handheld devices). If this isn't possible, post guidelines about cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment.

4. Stagger Shifts & Breaks

A recent survey found that 60% of Australians would like to continue working at least part-time from home.

If you have employees who would like to work at home a few days per week, could you accommodate them? This is an easy fix for many of your physical distancing dilemmas.

Other steps you can take include staggering your start and finish times. This will help you limit the number of people in the office at any given time. It could also help your staff avoid using public transportation during the busiest times.

Another idea is to introduce a shift pattern. This involves creating fixed "shift groups" to reduce the number of contacts each worker has with others.

5. Clean & Disinfect Frequently

If you don't have dedicated cleaners for your business, delegate reasonable cleaning and disinfecting tasks to your staff. They'll likely be happy to do their part in keeping everyone healthy and safe.

All areas frequently touched by staff, customers, and suppliers need to be cleaned and disinfected often. Depending on the nature of your business, this could be twice per day or twice per hour.

If you have expensive equipment or machinery that can't be washed, develop a clear protocol for keeping it clean. You might also introduce restricting the use of common high-touch items, such as phones or keyboards.

Shared facilities such as showers or locker rooms also need enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocol. Make sure everyone knows the workspace policy on cleaning before they leave at the end of their shift.

Preparing a COVID-Safe Business (One Step at a Time)

We're all ready to get back to "normal," but we won't accomplish that goal unless everyone does their part.

As a business owner, it's up to you and your staff to cooperate and make a COVID-safe workplace for everyone. Make all reasonable efforts to slow the spread through physical distancing and good hygiene habits.

Stagger shifts and breaks and, if possible, support those who want to continue working from home. Clean and disinfect all surfaces frequently while monitoring the flow of customers and suppliers.

If you do all these things, you'll succeed in your goal of creating a COVID-safe business.

Are you interested in purchasing sneezeguards for your business? Click here to learn more about our high quality, locally made COVID protection products.

We also invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns.