How to Safely Return to an Office Environment Amid New Covid19 Guidelines

safe office environment covid19 guidelines

As business around the world begins to reopen, having a health and safety plan in place for returning to the workplace is crucial in order to provide the best protection for your employees, while limiting the impact on your business. Though many may be eager to get things back to normal and return to offices, it’s important to use caution throughout your reopening and establish a protocol for returning.

The World Health Organization and the Government of Canada have provided specific guidelines to help mitigate any potential risk to individuals, prevent the spread of Covid19 and avoid a second wave and another closure of business. Listening to the guidance of health professionals can help you make informed decisions for work life after Covid19. Here are some of the appropriate measures you can put into place as you prepare to return to the business in the office.

Are you ready to reopen?

The first thing you will need to determine is whether or not you’re ready to reopen. You may be eager to get back in the swing of things, but determining if you are actually ready is an important step. Readiness will vary for each business, depending on a number of factors including the physical layout of the office, services you are providing and even who your clientele is.

Physical distancing measures are essential to follow. This means not only social distancing employees from customers, but also from one another. It may not always be possible to create the recommended space between employees and customers. In these instances, many businesses have opted to have barriers installed, such as plexiglass, or are requiring those entering to wear a face covering. Some jurisdictions throughout Canada have now made wearing a mask or other face covering mandatory in indoor public spaces.

Bulk masks can be found through a variety of sellers on Etsy, or if you’re looking for a custom design, VistaPrint offers different price points for the quantity you need.

If you’re looking for plexiglass sneeze guards and other clear acrylic products, Canada Plastics offers a variety of options, cut to size according to your specifications.

Adaptations may have to be made according to what services you are providing. If it’s unavoidable that you will be in physical contact with others, more stringent precautions will need to be taken, such as making face coverings mandatory, and pre screening employees and customers.

Also consider whether your customer base is in a higher risk group, such as elderly individuals, or are a higher risk for transmission, such as children. Depending on whether your customers fit these groups, additional safety and health measures, such as more frequent cleaning, mandatory protective equipment or limiting the number of people inside at once, may need to be implemented.

What can be done online?

One of the greatest benefits of technology is that it allows us to do so much remotely, without having to come into contact with anyone physically. Consider what components of your business you may be able to move online, over the phone and through email to limit contact, even among individuals working together.

Whenever possible, consider corresponding with customers through email or over the phone, rather than in person. For workers working from home, correspondence can also be done this way or through online platforms such as Google Hangouts. Even if employees are working together within the same office space, communicating online lets them maintain the recommended physical distance.

Video conferencing is the perfect option for meetings, where you are able to speak ‘face to face,’ share files and even screenshare. Wired has compared the top 6 most popular video conferencing tools, both free and paid, including Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.

Can you offer contactless delivery or pickup?

If your business is selling physical products, consider providing contactless delivery or curbside pickup. There may need to be adjustments made to the layout of your business or additions made to your website to accommodate these changes.

Individuals may be feeling unsafe or hesitant to begin entering different spaces, and it may take some time for that comfort level to grow. Help accommodate those customers who still want to do business with you, but feel more comfortable doing so at a distance. Not only will this help to keep your business active, but it also shows a level of concern and consideration for the needs of your customers.

Have you changed office locations?

Many office buildings aren’t designed with social distancing in mind, and require individuals to use crowded elevators, pass through narrow hallways and work in tight spaces. If your existing office space did not allow for the physical distancing measures or recommended guidelines to be put into place, it may have been necessary to move office locations or work from home.

If this is the case, ensure that all of your business or corporate filings are kept up to date, so that important documents aren’t being sent to a different address.

You can quickly update the location or mailing address or your business or corporation through an Amendment to a Master Business Licence or a Notice of Change to a corporation.

What screenings and preventive measures can you take?

Different screening procedures and precautions can be implemented into your workplace to help minimize exposure to Covid19 and contain any possible spread. Many businesses are requiring that employees and visitors entering wear a face covering, and it is even mandated by the government in some areas.

Temperature checks are becoming more common as well, as employers attempt to prevent asymptomatic employees from unknowingly transmitting the illness to others. Those who are feeling ill are frequently being asked to remain at home, regardless of what symptoms they are experiencing.

Hub International has provided a comprehensive ‘Back to Business Playbook’ to help employers get back to business as usual, and have included a number of helpful checklists, including an employee Health Screening Questionnaire (PDF).

Do cleaning protocols need to be improved?

Sanitation is key with keeping any illness under control and creating a safe workplace. Have a well thought out plan for keeping all surfaces of your office space sanitized regularly and any new office protocol being put in place, such as frequent hand washing. Making sure all who work in or enter the office are well aware of these new standards is essential in ensuring compliance.

It may be necessary to hire a professional cleaning company if your employees are unable to keep up with these cleaning and disinfection standards.

10 Easy Tips for Keeping Employees Healthy & Safe

  1. Asking those who are sick to stay home
  2. Provide hygiene products, such as hand sanitizer
  3. Regularly disinfect frequently touched surface areas
  4. Be flexible with having employees work from home, when possible
  5. Provide materials to educate and train employees
  6. Communicate with suppliers and other third parties about what protection measures each of you are taking
  7. Minimize physical contact by allowing flexible arrangements, such as staggered shifts
  8. Allow employees to speak about any concerns they may have, especially those with underlying medical conditions that are higher risk
  9. Find alternatives to business travel, whenever possible
  10. Isolate and immediately send home any employees who become ill while at work

Ontario Business Central is committed to supporting business owners as they prepare to get back to business. We hope this information has made it easier to begin planning your return to the office and how you can create a plan to help keep your employees safe and your business active.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and speak to one of our dedicated staff who are always eager to assist new business owners.
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Ontario Business Central Inc. is not a law firm and cannot provide a legal opinion or advice. This information is to assist you in understanding the requirements of registration within the chosen jurisdiction. It is always recommended, when you have legal or accounting questions that you speak to a qualified professional.