Returning to Work: Preparing Your Building For Occupancy Amid Coronavirus

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus in February and March forced all but essential businesses to shut down while the national stay-at-home mandate was in effect. Organizations had to adjust to employees working from home, but now this is changing. The country is re-opening and companies are getting ready to welcome its non-essential workers back.

With employees returning to work, organizations must get their buildings ready for occupancy. It will take more than unlocking the doors and sweeping the floors. In this article, companies will find the guidance they need to prepare their buildings and implement effective workplace safety protocols.

Returning to Work: Planning and Preparing Your Building for Occupancy

Most of us have started planning for our non-essential workers to return to our facilities. Some of us may have tried to bring employees back only to have to send them home again. Your plan should be flexible so it can be changed as new information and events occur.

Gather your Team Before Returning to Work

Even if you’re running a small company, you can’t do everything by yourself. Along with business owners, your team should also include managers, engineers, and key service providers. If your building has additional tenants, you should consider including them.

Create Open Lines of Communication

When there are other building tenants, they should be kept informed of your plans to safely reopen the building. To keep employees safe, everyone in the building needs to adhere to the same protocols. It also applies to contractors and vendors that have frequent interaction with you and your staff.

Assess New Risks

It won’t be uncommon for new risks to develop as re-opening plans move forward. Discuss these risks with your insurance agent to ensure your coverage is up-to-date.

Meet with Legal Council

All of the proposed changes to the workplace environment should be discussed with the company’s legal division. You also want to familiarize yourself with any updated policies from OSHA, the EEOC, the NLRA, and any other employee and workplace safety governing body that pertains to the company.

Be Informed When Returning to Work

Federal, state, and local recommendations and mandates can and do change as the pandemic continues across the country. You want to always have the latest information to protect your employees’ health and safety.

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Health and Safety for Employees, Visitors, and Tenants When Returning to Work

There are proactive steps you can take to help keep employees safe as they’re returning to work.

Social Distancing and Workplace Safety Products

  • The CDC has released guidelines that can help minimize the spread of the virus that include social distancing – 6-feet – and wearing a mask whenever possible. These guidelines should be adhered to as closely as possible.
  • Have hand-sanitizer readily available throughout the building, especially in areas where employees gather. Frequent hand washing should also be encouraged.
  • If there are building tenants, recommend that they limit the number of visitors they invite inside.
  • For areas that need to be used but sneeze guards or desk mounted shields are not feasible, mobile partitions should be considered. Plexiglass room dividers are also a great way of separating larger shared spaces.
  • See if building occupancy can be limited by staggering workday hours with other tenants. It might be a requirement in your state.
  • Follow CDC guidelines that limit the size of gatherings, currently, it is 10 individuals or less. Whenever possible, schedule virtual meetings to limit exposure risk.
  • In office spaces with low cubical walls, cubicle extenders and desk mounted shields can be installed.

Safety Guidelines for Elevators

  • Limit the number of riders on elevators, if possible, to four people or less.
  • Reinforce social distancing in lobbies and in elevator cars with floor marks that can include tape, mats, and decals.
  • Have specific “up” and “down” elevators to limit traffic.
  • Apply the same rules to stairs. If there is only one set of stairs, designate one side as “up” and the other “down”. The stairs and hand railings will need to be regularly and thoroughly disinfected.

Safety in Common Areas and Amenity Spaces

  • Reduce and space out seating in lobbies and other common areas to promote social distancing.
  • Working with your third-party vendors, consider closing amenity spaces in the building like employee cafeterias, conference rooms, and other common areas for at least 30 days to allow for thorough cleaning. It is a requirement in some states for businesses to reopen.
  • Fitness centers are re-opening and space must be increased between the equipment. You may need to temporarily remove equipment to ensure distance between visitors. You can also consider adding social distancing barriers for additional safety precautions. Review and revise, if needed, waivers and reissue these to the guests to resign before they have access to the building.
  • Ensure that there is plenty of hand sanitizer in all common areas and amenity spaces.
  • Have trash containers placed throughout the building for employees and visitors to throw away their used masks.
  • Keep bike rooms open and clean, with hand sanitizer and trash cans.

Limit the Use of Shared Supplies, Equipment, and Space

  • The CDC recommends limiting the use of shared equipment. Recommend employees wear masks and gloves when sharing office equipment. The equipment should also be sanitized after each use.
  • Instruct employees to have personal toolboxes instead of a communal one.
  • Installing sneeze guards where possible will limit virus exposure and transmission among employees and visitors.
  • Do not share cleaning supplies with other building tenants, each should have their own.
  • Wherever possible take advantage of touch-free technology that can include automatic faucets, paper towel dispensers, and hands free temperature and mask check technologies.

Limit Building Access

  • Try to limit visitor access to the building by having a single-entry door and a separate one for exits. You also want to check with local fire codes before you reduce the number of exit points.
  • If feasible, have security personal enforce any safety protocols for visitors that might include wearing a face covering.
  • Have social distancing protocols in place to protect personal working at building entrances and exits.
  • Use signs and floor markings that are clear and concise to enforce social distancing.
  • Encourage tenants to meet their visitors at the front to control their access to other areas in the building.
  • Create delivery policies that limit access to the building by meeting the drivers out front or in the rear.

Use Signage

  • Install signs throughout the building clearly outlining the safety protocols that include social distancing.
  • Have signs near all elevators, including ones used for freight that specify maximum occupancy, along with the need to wear a face-covering while inside the building.
  • Signage in restaurants and fitness centers should contain information on the new health and safety policies. Including how often you are cleaning and disinfecting the office is important.
  • Use multilingual signs, along with graphics and pictures to ensure your policies are understood and followed.

While returning to work can seem quite daunting, by being prepared and having open conversations with staff and customers is a good way to get ready for returning to work. To learn more about how to safely return to work, read this article here.

Time to Return to Work

It is possible for employees to safely return to work, as long as safety protocols are in place. Everyone in the building must follow these guidelines for it to be effective. With a flexible plan and cubicle extenders, plexiglass barriers, and an air filtration system, your building will be ready for occupancy amid the coronavirus. Our experts here at Action Services Group can walk you through what workplace safety products you need to safely reopen your facility to your staff, visitors, and customers. Contact us today by calling 610-558-9773, emailing [email protected], or schedule a call by clicking the button below!

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“We are thrilled with our new air purification system and our whole organization can rest easier knowing our buildings indoor air quality is 99.995% filtered of all pollutants. The installation crew was quick, professional, and they cleaned up after themselves. Thank you, Action Services group!”

 Director of Human Resources – Transitional Care and Rehabilitation Center