6 Ways to Prioritize Employee Safety During COVID [Updated for 2022]
Like many businesses, you may be creating a plan for how to bring your team back to the office in 2022. However, the ongoing safety concerns of COVID-19 (not to mention the presence of new variants) make planning for your return to the office a challenge.
While we’ve found that most teams want to return to the office in some capacity, employees need to know that you are taking their health and wellbeing seriously. It’s important that your team feels safe and protected, and knows that you are putting measures in place to keep them and the office safe.
Here are 6 key ways that you can prioritize employee safety during COVID-19, while still allowing your team the opportunity to return to the office.
1. Establish capacity limits for your office
By now, we all know that COVID is more likely to spread indoors, in confined spaces, with prolonged exposure to other people.
So, for the time being, it’s important to assess your office layout and make sure that you are not overcrowding your office with too many people at once, or requiring employees to sit too close to each other.
To start, consider setting capacity limits to ensure that your employees can properly social distance within the workplace. How many employees will be allowed to work in the office on any given day? This will depend on your company size, the size of your office space, the level of collaborative work that takes place on your teams, and everyone’s overall comfort with working in-person. It’s a good idea to start by evaluating how many desks can be used at once while allowing for appropriate social distancing, as well as sending out a survey to gauge employee comfort.
Once you’ve determined the capacity limits, make sure that all employees are aware of the new office requirements. Think through how employees will know when capacity limits are reached, so that people do not commute to work to find an office that is at capacity.
Implementing a desk booking tool can be a good way to do this—employees can easily check to see how many coworkers are scheduled to work in the office on a given day, if desks are available, and book a desk in advance or on their way into work.
2. Set up daily employee health screenings
Regular testing is, of course, an easy way to help prevent the spread of COVID within your office. But, it’s not always realistic to test everyone on your team daily.
To manage this, many companies are requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination or recent negative test results, as well as complete a health screening survey before coming into the office. This survey could ask questions about potential symptoms and exposures, and depending on how the employee fills it out, the employer can determine if the employee is allowed on-site or not.
For tips on how to structure your health survey questionnaire, see our blog post on Top Health Survey Questions to Ask for ideas. And, always make sure to consult your legal team before implementing any system that asks employees for health data. Using a health screening tool (like Eden Workplace’s COVID team safety product) where employees can easily and securely upload vaccination documents and complete surveys can also go a long way toward ensuring that your team feels comfortable sharing their health data. It also streamlines the process for both your employees and your HR or People Operations team, by making it easier to collect health information on a regular basis.
3. Make use of contact tracing
While we hope that your office is never exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, it is important to be prepared for this potential risk.
Contract tracing in the workplace is a crucial aspect of ensuring employee safety. In order to accurately contact trace, you must know who has been on-site, on what day, and at what time. If you learn that an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or has been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, you will then need to quickly confirm who else was on-site on the same day as the exposed person. It’s critical that you’re able to notify anyone of their potential exposure immediately.
So, having a system in place for tracking who has been in the office, and when they were there, is essential. Of course, we recommend using a dedicated tool for desk booking, health screenings, and so on to keep a secure, accurate log of who was in your office at any given time—but the most important thing is to make sure you are keeping any record, period (even manually entering info into a spreadsheet).
You can think of putting a process in place to prepare for this potential scenario as insurance—you might not need to use it, but it will be extremely valuable if you do.
4. Encourage handwashing, mask-wearing, and frequent sanitizing
We already know it's important—but it's best to over-communicate. Encourage your team to adopt the healthy habits of handwashing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing while in the office, to minimize any potential COVID spread.
It’s become common practice for businesses to display signs around the office reminding employees to wash and sanitize their hands frequently, and many companies also set up hand sanitizing stations around the office—think high-touch areas like your reception desk or near doorways. And (while it might not be the most fun swag you’ll ever give out), you might consider preparing individual packages for anyone who comes into your office (employee or otherwise), complete with hand sanitizer, masks, and so on.
Speaking of masks, it’s important to encourage mask-wearing when inside shared rooms. You might elect to require masks while inside the office, or encourage your leadership team to lead by example.
5. Consider office visitors
Does your office regularly have visitors—like clients, contractors, vendors, or interviewees?
If so, it’s important to have systems in place to keep not only your team safe, but everyone who comes through your office doors.
This can look like extending the protocols we’ve discussed above (like your mask policy, health questionnaires, and so on) to any office visitors. And, using a visitor management tool can help with contact tracing and reducing potential exposure for everyone involved.
For more on this topic, check out our recent blog post on what a visitor management system is, and the benefits of using one to keep your office running safely and smoothly.
6. Keep things flexible
While the five strategies above will help keep your office safe, it’s important that everyone on your team knows their health and wellbeing is more important than returning to in-office work.
This means keeping your return to office policies flexible, so that everyone on your team feels comfortable, regardless of their individual level of COVID-caution. The above measures should not replace an overall company attitude that prioritizes team safety over in-office work.
Employers should consider how they can support employees to be their most successful in this new dynamic work environment that combines both in-office and remote work. To learn more about setting up a “hybrid office,” check out our blog—we’ve covered the topic in detail, including in our guide on the hybrid workplace model and how to implement it within your office.
And, if you’re interested in learning more about how Eden Workplace’s suite of workplace management tools can help keep your team COVID-safe, request a demo with us today.