Several states have begun easing coronavirus precautions by resuming restaurant dine-in and allowing for stay-at-home orders to expire. For some workers who earlier this year began mandatory working from home, the next phase of reopening may mark their return to the office. To keep employees and employers safe, the CDC has released recommendations and guidelines for reopened buildings. Here are changes returning office workers should expect.
Unless they pose a safety or health risk to occupants, windows will likely remain open in reopened offices. This is to increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. Opened doors and fans may also be employed. Increased fresh air circulation is also one of the ways to create a healthier home.
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Prior to welcoming back workers, it is recomended that office buildings owners ensure their facility’s ventilation systems are operating properly. This was also guidance given to college campuses considering reopening.
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It is recomended that each employer develps a coronavirus workplace health and safety plan in accordance with CDC guidelines and recommendations. This safety plan should be based on the level of disease transmission in the community and readiness of the employer to properly protect their employees and others.
Just as social distance must be maintained at reopened chain restaurants and other public spaces, employers are suggested to ensure at least 6 feet of space between employee workstations. Expect for seats, desks and other office furniture to be moved accordingly.
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In cases when social distancing between workspaces is not an option, some employers may install transparent shields or other physical barriers to maintain distance between employees and other visitors.
You might have to take the stairs more frequently. In order to continue maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance, elevator occupancy should be limited.
Reception areas could also look a bit different once offices reopen. Managers are encouraged to space out seating, cover chairs with fabric so they may not be used, or remove seats entirely.
Much like at grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, prepare to see colored tape on your office floor indicating where to and not to stand in order to maintain social distance. Signs and other visual cues could similarly serve as reminders to keep your distance from other employees.
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Speaking of hand hygiene, businesses are to ensure employees have adequate time to wash their hands throughout the day and provide access to soap, clean water and single use paper towels. If soap and water are not available, employees are encouraged to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC also recommends employers prohibit all handshaking, hugs and fist bumps.
No more water cooler chats. The CDC has recommended employers do away with any high-touch communal items such as shared coffee pots or bulk snacks.
High-touch surfaces such as workstations, telephones, keyboard, printers, doorknobs and handrails should be routinely cleaned using CDC-approved cleaning products.
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So employees can better protect themselves from exposure to the virus, it’s recommended employers provide disposable wipes and other cleaning materials so employees may wipe down high-touch surfaces before each use.
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Whenever possible, businesses may also replace traditional trash cans with no-touch waste bins.
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Employers and facility owners may consider conducting daily in-person health checks of employees before they enter the building. These tests may be made up of symptom checks and temperature screenings. The CDC urges employers to keep health screening as safe, respectful and private as possible so they prevent discrimination in the workplace.
Should an employee begin to experience symptoms of illness any time during the workday, they should immediately be separated from other workers and sent home. Employers should have a procedure for how to safely transport sick employees either home or to a healthcare provider.
To minimize the number of employees in a facility at one time, businesses may rotate or stagger employee shifts and start times. This will help to reduce density in common areas and daily health screening rooms.
Employee break times may also be rotated and staggered across the day to maintain social distancing in break rooms, cafeterias and other common spaces. While on break or lunch, employees may be encouraged to use outdoor seating areas.
Outdoor seating may be used for other small group activities like meetings and training as well as for breaks and lunches.
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Some states with more coronavirus restrictions have implemented face mask or cloth face covering requirements in public spaces. Still, the CDC recommends all employees wear cloth face coverings to cover their nose and mouth in all areas of the business. Guests and visitors to the facility may also be asked to wear a face mask.
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Employers are encouraged to incentivize driving and other forms of transportations that limit contact. New measures may include reimbursing parking and allowing employees to shift hours to avoid rush hour traffic and bad commutes.
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If not driving themselves, employees may also be reimbursed for commutes via single-occupancy rideshare.
For employees who must commute to work using public transit, employers may allow for adjusted start and end times to limit travel during peak hours.
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Finally, visitors to reopened facilities may be required to phone security upon their arrival. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken up economies, families and now office life. But the social distancing precautions are not without results. Social distancing has saved lives — see just how many across major cities.
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