As most of Australia begins gradually easing COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are anxious about returning to the office safely and efficiently.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every business, there are guidelines and policies available to help organisations ensure that their employees can return to work safely and productively post-lockdown.
Here’s what you need to do to ensure a healthy and happy return to work for every employee.
Physical distancing checklist
Safe Work Australia has outlined the physical distancing requirements every office must implement to ensure the safety of their employees. On top of enforcing a one person per 4 square metre rule, employers must:
- Consult with workers and health and safety representatives on implementing any of the following control measures.
- Be aware of the number of people in an enclosed space at any one time.
- Walkthrough the office space to ensure that they’ve correctly calculated the area of each enclosed space by multiplying the length of the space in metres by its width in metres and then dividing that area by 4.
- Put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5m distance.
- Request contactless deliveries where possible.
- Transition to paperless invoicing where possible.
- Put physical distancing markers on the floor in areas where customers line up or where workers perform tasks.
- Implement staggered start, finish and break times where possible.
- Train workers in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Acclimatising back to the office can take time and what works for one person may not work for everyone. As employers, remaining flexible and listening to your employees is going to be important for the mental health and wellbeing of your entire workforce, including yourself. Organisational culture will become more important than ever post-lockdown, as it may be challenging to keep everyone on track and aligned if some employees' roles remain remote. Maintaining daily WIPs, standups and team building sessions via video conference, will help lift morale and align goals within your teams.
Here’s what Safe Work Australia outlines as important wellbeing guidelines for employers and their staff during this time:
- Regularly check-in with workers to see how they are going and if anything is stressing them.
- If workers are experiencing distress, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that they are doing what they can in the circumstances.
- Stay informed with information from official sources and regularly communicate this information to employees.
- Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns.
- Inform employees about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities.
- Inform workers about their rights, including the right to stop work in certain circumstances and not to be discriminated against for raising concerns about COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Proactively support workers who you identify to be more at risk of psychological injury.
- Refer employees to appropriate work related mental health support services, if needed.
Keeping workspaces clean and sanitised at all times is a requirement for every organisation. The following guidelines will help in keeping your workplace hygienic:
- Clean your workplace at the end of the workday using a detergent, or a 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution
- Clean objects and surfaces that are used repeatedly and frequently multiple times throughout the day
- Instruct workers to clean personal property that has been brought to work
- Provide appropriate PPEs such as disposable gloves or safety eyewear
- Discard disposable gloves after each use and wash or sanitise hands before and after wearing gloves.
- Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation.
- Empty and re-clean equipment such as buckets with a fresh solution of disinfectant and completely dry before re-use.
Handwashing and hygiene checklist
To keep employees safe, your organisation mustn’t just provide hygiene equipment and implement appropriate policies, you also must be vigilant in ensuring that these standards are upheld over time. The following checklist will help make sure that best practice hygiene standards are maintained in your organisation:
- Tell workers not to come to work when they are unwell, even if they feel fit to work
- Set up an adequate number of hand sanitising stations to service the number of workers onsite
- Set up these stations in high traffic areas and instruct employees to use them after finishing every task they are working on
- Install touchless payment points and minimise cash handling
- Instruct employees not to shake hands and to wash hands after any accidental physical interaction
- Install touchfree rubbish bins
- Put posters up to inform workers and others how to wash their hands correctly and when to wash their hands
- Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective
Communication is key, no matter what industry or position you work in. The more you can keep your employees updated on organisational changes and include them in the decision making process, the better your outcomes will be for the organisation and staff. Keep your finger on the pulse with internal communications or a feedback loop such as employee surveys.
Returning to work safely takes commitment and sacrifices but by planning ahead, employers can minimise any negative impacts to their business. Investing in audio, video and managed conferencing solutions that allow your team to stay connected and your business moving forward, regardless of what restrictions are in place is one way you can protect the financial health of your organisation as well as the physical health of your employees.
Express Virtual Meetings are experts in reliable, secure and easy-to-use video and audio conferencing solutions that keep businesses connected and moving forward. Contact one of our friendly team members to see how you can access free video conferencing for 2020, today.