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Working from home may have its benefits (who needs pants in a Zoom meeting, anyway?), but going back into the office may be inevitable. Here are a few tips to properly plan your company’s transition back to working together, and ways to keep the process as stress-free and mentally healthy as possible. By providing a hygienic working environment, your employees can continue to work productively and successfully.

  1. Err on the side of caution

Despite having colleagues back together in an office, going back to work does not mean letting your guard down. Identify the most germ-prone areas in your office, such as your break room, water coolers, commonly used doorknobs or buttons (such as copiers, microwaves, refrigerators, and water fountains), and make sure that all employees understand the need to keep it clean. Keep surface wipers nearby to easily wipe down these germy “hotspots,” and place disinfectants in high traffic areas such as lobbies, conference rooms and break rooms so workers get used to using them throughout the day.

Stock up on critical supplies such as soap, bathroom tissue and other amenities to promote hand and surface hygiene such as hand sanitizers and personal disinfectant wipes for desks, phones and keyboards.

Invest in no-touch gadgets for commonly used items such as water dispensers, hand sanitizers, and doors. Reducing contact with frequently touched surfaces via automatic systems such as sensor-activated door openers and electronic restroom dispensers can go a long way in helping keep germs away. Say no to sharing equipment, as well. The CDC recommends that workers avoid using desks, work tools or equipment used by other employees.

  1. Train all employees on new office protocols 

It may seem like everyone already knows to wash their hands often, wear a mask, socially distance, and limit social interactions, but you probably need to enforce new office rules to ensure a hygienic environment. 

Make sure workspaces are at least six feet apart and make sure meetings are held in tiny groups — you may even consider reducing the number of chairs in a meeting space!

Your offices will also need to be cleaned and sanitized more often, so you also have to make sure that your cleaning staff is trained on the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Ensure that they know how to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and that they address germ “hotspots.” 

Post hygiene information throughout your facility that details about screening procedures, cleaning protocols and when an area was last cleaned to reassure your workers that you are taking important steps to provide a clean and hygienic environment.

  1. Test, track, trace, and isolate.

Prepare for what you know—and what you don’t know—will be your best weapon against COVID-19. As the WHO has emphasized from the beginning of the pandemic, testing, tracking, tracing, and isolating sick persons is key. Create a response plan to do the same in your office for when an employee in your building becomes ill—or even beforehand. 

  • Testing: You may need to conduct health screenings for everyone who enters your building, so look into technology that conducts temperature checks and allows for virtual sign-ins via phones and QR codes. You may want to consider various companies that utilize thermal screening beyond no-contact handheld thermometers. Mounted thermographic cameras can screen multiple individuals at a faster rate so a workspace can be checked for potential body temperature spikes that could indicate sickness.
  • Tracking and tracing: A few software companies use IP-based video surveillance with a birds-eye-view camera perspective and video analytics software to detect people entering and exiting the office. When the office is nearing capacity, safety personnel can be alerted so employees can stay socially distanced.
  • Quarantining: Identify a space where the person can be safely isolated and have a plan for transferring them to a health facility. Make sure you can track the person’s contacts and clean all spaces that may have been contaminated. 
  1. Assess your infrastructure 

There are software solutions that can compute how work spaces and seating can be configured safely, as well as calculate the volume of people coming in and out of the office.

Also assess the ways your office’s indoor air quality can be improved; Americans spend more than 90% of their time indoors, and an EPA report found that installing a system designed to improve indoor air quality in an office can lead to increased productivity, fewer lost work days and medical cost savings.

Office managers will find everything needed for maintaining a hygienic office in our breakroom and janitorial supplies store.  

Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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