From riding in an elevator to buying lunch at the cafeteria (when eating spaces can even open!), there are lots of interactions and scenarios both management and staff need to consider when physical locations gradually reopen. Here are some ways everyone can work together to minimize exposure to COVID-19 to keep the business running and — of paramount importance — to keep everyone safe and healthy:

  • Hand sanitizer stations at the entrance and exit of every elevator. Ideally, the company or building management should limit the number of people who can ride in an elevator to allow for separation.
  • Encouragement of gloves or other protective gear to press elevator buttons.
  • No-touch trash cans throughout the office.
  • Disinfecting hands regularly, depending on the type of work being done.
  • Masks for everyone — no exceptions! Management must be on top of this and can help by providing masks for employee use.
  • Limited use of communal breakrooms, perhaps with staggered break times, so only a few people can congregate at a time, based on the size of the room. The same with bathrooms, which should involve vigorous hand hygiene.
  • Food safety: no shared foods, with single-serving, prepackaged foods and sandwiches brought from home.
  • Virtual meetings with business partners, clients and customers instead of face to face.
  • Lunch breaks and meetings outside, if weather allows, where there’s less chance of transmission.
  • Flexibility on commuting. Mass transit could be dangerous for some time. Depending on where the business is located relative to where employees live, cars, bicycles and walking may work better. Perhaps businesses can temporarily subsidize parking until mass transit is safe again.
  • Review office layout plans. Open plans may need to become a thing of the past. Cubicle walls may not be high enough. Businesses and employees should work to keep everyone separated, even if it means not everyone can come in every day. Everyone needs to take responsibility for keeping high-touch areas clean.

Businesses and individuals should follow qualified guidance on testing, especially if an employee is exposed outside work. Again, staff health and safety are of the highest importance.

Finally, both businesses and employees need to remain flexible about returning to work in the building versus working from home. Because of the nature of their jobs or underlying health issues, it may be best for some employees to continue to work remotely even after the business reopens its brick-and-mortar location. Other employees, who are otherwise healthy but in a living situation that makes remote working difficult, for example, may be able and willing to come back sooner. Employers should take seriously any perceived safety issues, investigating them and not taking any retaliatory action against employees who make such claims in good faith. Employees should strictly follow health and safety rules for their own sake — and everyone else’s.

By working together, businesses and employees can ensure their own health — and the health of the company.

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