How to create a COVID-19 secure workplace
We have had multiple requests through time to write a piece on how to keep your workplace as safe as possible during the COVID-19 crisis. So we had our best go at doing just that! Read on for tips on how to feel more at ease while you work - knowing you are keeping your environment as coronavirus-safe as possible.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: It is important to state here that we are not medical practitioners and that at no point does the below substitute the official advice given by entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, the advice found on GOV.UK, HSE, or the advice given to you by your medical practitioner. Also important to note that if at any point you feel unwell, or feel any of the symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 (you can find a list here), please stay home.
Now that we've said this, let's get on to every day actions you can take, as an office-owner, to keep your office safe, both for yourself as well as your staff, colleagues, or nimblers using your space.
What is a COVID Secure Workplace?
Unfortunately, as long as the coronavirus outbreak lasts, every workplace will face the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Creating a COVID secure workplace is therefore about making work environments as safe as possible for people returning to work, as well as for anyone visiting your office.
Risks of COVID-19 transmission need to be identified, assessed, and avoided.
How to make your office COVID Secure:
1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
Companies in the UK are usually required to have a Health and Safety plan, which includes a Risk Assessment. If you haven't done this already, as we gradually begin returning to work life (with the appropriate precautions) you will likely need to update this plan to ascertain the risk of coronavirus contagion to you and/or your team or anyone else working in your office. Here is a good resource on how to get started. You should have a document listing your risks and actions, and share this with your team, ideally by placing it somewhere visible in a communal area.
Here are some useful resources to do this:
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - General Risk Assessment resources
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - COVID-19-specific Risk Assessment resources
- United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration - Hazard Recognition
2. Communicate effectively
Your team should be very aware of what your risk plan is and the actions to be taken. But beyond this simple step you should also have clear signage throughout your office, tape on the floor, etc. so that everyone is clear as to how best to keep social distancing within the space and what cleaning steps are required of everyone to ensure that the office remains COVID-19 safe. It is also key to have a very clear plan on what exactly to do should someone in the office develop symptoms. The responsibility here rests with each individual to be conscientious and notify the team immediately if they become unwell - and the office should then be closed, and everyone who was present must quarantine for the appropriate period to ensure contagion, if present, doesn't spread.
3. Mind your air quality and rearrange the space as appropriate
If possible, using items like HVAC filters are recommended, and/or keeping windows open to allow air to circulate.
4. Implement additional hygiene measures
This measure is key! Make sure to significantly step up the cleaning routine within your office, have alcohol gel dispensers available (minimum 70% pure alcohol content to be most effective), as well as hand soaps. Encourage regular hand-washing (a minimum of 20 seconds), using a generous amount of soap. Clean surfaces regularly in communal areas. Disinfect in particular areas that are touched by many people, such as phones, door handles, etc.
5. Maintain social distancing measures
You may need to rearrange the space somewhat to ensure that social distancing is taking place, perhaps by moving desks and/or chairs. You may also want to either add, or to make sure you are using, dividers in between desks. Tapes on the floor are useful to redirect the flow of people traffic into a one-way system so as to avoid getting people to stand closer to each other than the recommended 2m. In the event where maintaining this rule may not be possible (such as using bathrooms), make sure to encourage the use of appropriate face masks.
6. Last but not least - keep your knowledge always up to date
As the novel coronavirus is a new pathogen, science is learning about it more and more every day. As such, some of the initial recommendations may change and be updated. Make sure to keep up to date with the latest knowledge in the fight against COVID-19. Here are some office safety specific sources we at NIMBLD recommend:
The hope is alive and well that we will hopefully have a vaccine before too long, which will allow us to go back to "normal" - anyone remember what that was like...? :) Treatments are also becoming more effective, so there is #hope.
What about my empty office that is still costing me so much money...? :/
If you have empty offices as your team works remotely, remember that you can list these on NIMBLD for free, so you can hire them out to local WFH'ers nearby - of course, doing this when lockdown lifts, and with the appropriate precautions! This will help you recoup some of your office costs, and we trust this could very much help small businesses stay afloat during this crisis. Any listings you create can easily be taken offline as restrictions tighten, and reactivated once they ease, making us a key tool in helping you navigate these difficult times as a business owner.
We can do this. <3