Who would have thought the front door of your office would ever be such a welcome sight?
After many months of working from home, professionals are starting to return to their desks and spend their days surrounded by colleagues instead of pets and house plants.
However, the way we work has changed for the long term, if not forever. Personal space is now essential, hygiene is a top priority and showing up with a cough or sore throat is a definite no-no.
Here are some ways to make the transition back to office life easier and safer for your team and the customers who visit your premises.
Ease back in
For most companies, it’s not full steam ahead just yet. Many are welcoming employees a few at a time so co-workers can maintain a 1.5-metre distance.
You will probably need to create a roster which has people working in the office for two or three days a week and at home on the other days.
Talk to your staff about which teams it makes sense to have working in the office on the same days. Encourage people to stick to the routine of video calls as a way to keep in touch with those who are working remotely.
Introduce COVID-safe policies
Depending on the industry you’re in, you may be legally required to implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
Even if you don’t, it makes sense to create and share policies which cover personal hygiene at work, physical distancing and recording the contact details of the people who visit your office. There are different safety plans recommended for different industries—for NSW you’ll find them here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/covid-safe-businesses#industries
Once you have implemented a plan, you can register as a COVID-safe business. As part of this you will need to educate your team and new workers on the best way to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
Check your office
Your cleaners are the new superheroes of your business and it’s likely they will need to increase cleaning and disinfection of high traffic areas or shared surfaces as you return to the workplace.
It is also recommended you inspect and review air conditioning and ventilation systems, provide cleaning products and instructions for staff to clean their own workspaces and provide instruction and amenities for personal hygiene and infection control.
There are more resources about workplace safety during COVID from SafeWork here: https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/COVID-19-Coronavirus.
Be prepared for an outbreak
As many places around the world have already demonstrated, an outbreak of COVID-19 can take hold swiftly, especially in a closed environment such as an office or industrial space.
Again, there are guidelines in place if you suspect someone is ill with COVID-19 at your workplace. These include isolating the person, providing PPE (personal protective equipment) to them and the person assisting them, seeking advice and ensuring the affected person can get home or to a medical centre safely.
The next steps include cleaning the area where the person has been working and contacting everyone who has been in close contact with them.
You can find the recommended ways to deal with suspected COVID at your workplace here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/office/covid-19-your-workplace
Many experts have spoken out about the psychological impact COVID-19 has had on people. Right now, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed and even a little more absent-minded than usual.
The disruption has caused a huge break in routine and while most people were able to adapt relatively quickly, there may be cracks starting to show.
As a small business owner or in your role as a leader of your business, find ways to make sure your team feels connected. You may also wish to establish an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), which offers mental health support to your team.
With restrictions easing gradually, you and your team don’t have to immediately return to the office in full. Take the time to establish a ‘new normal’ so everyone feels safe and their health is protected.
Imagine Accounting is a COVID-safe workplace. Our Chatswood Accountants specialise in helping small businesses. We are welcoming new clients both in the office and for online meetings. Contact us to find out how we can help you or your small business.