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Covid 19: What to do to reopen your business premises.

28 May 2020
Andrew Grant
COVID-19, Payroll, People

I thought I’d write a short guide on re-emerging from Coronavirus as I recently put in to place a plan for reopening the offices and found a number of practical issues worth sharing.

I would consider myself an over-thinker generally so I’ve spent a number of hours considering various scenarios and considering different ways we may be able to operate.  This left me with a number of thoughts and with a long list of to-dos without an idea of what to do first.

After a lot of searching and reading, I’ve now realised what I should have done and have shared this with you below.

So, where to start;

Industry ‘specific’ general guidance

The government published guidance relating to specific settings that you can read online or download.  We primarily are office based so I used this as a framework for my considerations.

It is published over 32 pages so there is a bit to read (there are pictures though!).  I found this useful as it triggered considerations that might not necessarily come to mind and a framework to build your to do list around.

Risk Assessment

Anyone who’s been anywhere near health and safety in the past will know all actions start with a risk assessment. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) recommend you complete a risk assessment specifically regarding Covid-19 and provide detailed guidance.  Never having completed one, I read the guidance and used the framework provided here. Please try to stop yourself copy and pasting their example document, as tempting as that may be.

Alternatively, there are already firms out there offering this as a service and we can provide recommendations should you want.

Communicate

You won’t need me to tell you that if you have a team, they are your most important asset.  I’m sure you’ll have been in regular contact throughout this pandemic and found new ways to communicate.  Zoom has been great for us.

Keeping them informed is one of the single most important actions you can take as there will be a significant level of anxiety in some and a complacency in others.

I would recommend letting your team know that you are reviewing the risks associated with the virus and looking to reopen. Then book a virtual team meeting to communicate the process you have been through and reassure people of the measures you have taken.

If you have a large team also consider appointing an employee representative.  Some staff feel uncomfortable raising issues directly with the directors and it may be more efficient for a member of your team to act as go between with whom you discuss potential changes.  This will help staff perception of change by involving rather than imposing.

Get supplies ordered

Just at the moment the office supplies industry is under pressure.  With the combination of the government’s rush to re-open the economy and the increased demand on certain products, as well as internal pressures from social distancing measures order lead times are stretching and certain products are in short supply.

I managed to get the supplies I identified as needing from four different suppliers and Amazon.  Two of those suppliers had issues with obtaining product from their suppliers resulting in delays.

Get the cleaners in

The cleanliness of your environment will be on everyone’s mind before and when they return to work.  We have arranged a deep clean prior to re-opening and perfect timing (being the spring) as everyone is away from the office.

I would recommend sourcing contacts to enable a deep clean in the event of a suspected or known case of Covid-19.  There are cleaning protocols for cleaning such areas that you could follow yourselves, but the recommended PPE involves eye and face protection as well as aprons, gloves and waste disposal routines.  Personally, I think it best to leave things to the professionals to be safe.  There appears to be excellent coverage/awareness in the commercial cleaners in our area and there are cleaners willing to pick up the deep cleans on an ad-hoc basis.

Now, there are no limits to how far you could go and of course this is down to interpretation rather than specific guidance.  Phrases like more frequently aren’t going to help really if you have never cleaned a light switch in your life as once will be more frequently than before!

For an example, we have provisionally agreed a regime that covers daily visits from cleaners who will empty bins and clean all common areas and touch points and then work a rota where they cover all low use areas over the course of the week.  This will likely be covered in a 10 hour program and our offices cover over 3,300 square feet over three floors.

This will also give you the opportunity to change the routine and you may be able to rearrange the current rota to reduce frequency on low use areas whilst focusing the work on those areas of highest risk of transmission.

Don’t underestimate the task

When I carried out a walk around survey I spotted a number of things that needed changing.  The second time I did it, I realised a number of other things that hadn’t come to mind previously.  The guidance issues will help with this but do allow enough time to enable thought.

You certainly become aware of all the touch points around your business.  Things like flip lid bins, fridge handles, replacing fabric hand towels for paper ones, how people should use the kitchen, hand washing guidance, hand sanitiser locations and that’s before you start on photocopiers, light switches etc.

There will be practical workarounds for all eventualities but they will take a little time to imagine and put in place.

For example, there are ways you could never touch a light switch again that involve installing sensors rather than switches but there is no reason why a suitable hand washing and cleaning regime need be supplemented with vast capital expenditure.  Clearly it’s impractical to get every staff member a personal cleaner but instead of contracting cleaners to clean all surfaces daily, consider issuing staff with wipes and tissues to enable them to clean their workstations and introduce a clear desk policy.

You may need to reduce capacity

For some work environments, it will not be possible to maintain social distancing per the government guidelines of 2m.  A good amount of floor tape will help you mark out areas for people to stand/avoid, however, in our case, without considering significant spend on shield and new desk barriers etc. we have practically reduced our maximum staff capacity to around half of the pre coronavirus level.

The guidance doesn’t prohibit breaching the guidance if you need to but encourages work around like side by side, back to back rather than face to face seating/working arrangements.

Consider furloughed roles

It is possible that some of the tasks/areas you need to consider are carried out by workers in your team that are currently on furlough.  Whilst staff are not allowed to work for you during furlough, they can attend training.

We believe it is justified that all staff are invited to attend training for updates on the office re-opening and discussions about these areas and make sure you do involve them to avoid issues with the team further down the line.

The content in this blog is correct as at 28/05/2020. See terms and conditions.

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