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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed many aspects of the current workplace, and soon, employers will begin planning return to work policies and possible workplace updates for their post-coronavirus office. By updating office layouts, encouraging new behaviors, and expanding remote work options, employers can help prevent the spread of future diseases, and protect the health and safety of employees as they return to work.

Physical Changes to Workplaces

Employers can help facilitate an office environment that aligns with the encouraged behaviors of employees. Some best practices for updated office space organization:

  • Increasing each employee’s personal space and ensuring desks are 6 feet or more apart
  • Creating walls and barriers between cubicles
  • Creating a walk-traffic flow that discourages congestion
  • Performing maintenance on air-filtration systems
  • Installing automatic doors
  • Installing no-touch soap dispensers and sinks in bathrooms
  • Making hand sanitizer and cleaning products readily available

Behavioral Changes

While every business is different, there are practices organizations can implement to help encourage employee behaviors. Common post-coronavirus adjustments may include:

  • Create expectations for hand washing. (CDC link)
  • Ban or discourage shaking hands. 
  • Review how cleaning schedules can be more frequent and thorough.
  • Adjust meeting practices. Limit the number of employees for in-person meetings. Advise them to spread out and avoid sharing multi-touch devices.

Technology Considerations for Employers 

Consider how the use of technology can aid in efforts to prevent the spread of diseases. Some organizations are tracking employees’ distances through cellphones or other devices, and even screening employees and guests for high body temperatures. Employers can also consider installing or expanding the use of hands-free voice assistants, such as Amazon, Google, or Apple devices, with the intent of reducing the use of shared technology surfaces used by multiple employees. While not all of these changes will make sense or be feasible for all organizations, employers can consider how updated business practices can encourage social distancing, and reduce the touching of shared surfaces—both during and even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expanding Telecommuting Options

According to a survey of U.S. employers by the Computing Technology Industry Association conducted in 2019, more than two-thirds of respondents across a range of different industries and professions reported increased productivity when workers telecommuted full- or part-time. While the feasibility of remote work varies depending on an employee’s job responsibilities, expanding remote work options offers other benefits as well, including:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased retention
  • Reduced greenhouse emissions
  • The ability to tap into a broader talent pool
  • Fewer opportunities for diseases to spread

Notably, by expanding remote opportunities, employers can reduce the amount of human interaction that takes place and limits sick employees from coming into the office. By creating companywide remote policies, rather than leaving remote work approval requests up to an employee’s manager, you enforce consistent practices. As employers consider how they can best create remote work policies, many considerations factor into the equation.

Preparing for Future Pandemics 

Even after reopening, health experts warn that businesses should prepare for future pandemics. Additional waves of COVID-19 could reemerge in the future, and employers should create plans that account for partial or full closings of office locations.

Prepare Your Post-coronavirus Office 

As employers plan for how to operate post-coronavirus, creating preventive best practices can set up organizations for success. Organizations can begin creating an updated workplace with virus-resistant methods to help prepare them for future pandemics. 

As employees reenter the job market, post-coronavirus practices will be top of mind. Put employees at ease by being proactive and establishing appropriate measures and practices to ensure the health and safety of those who will be spending time at the office. 

As laws and guidelines related to COVID-19 change, employers should consult with legal counsel when updating or changing policies. Contact Dempsey & Siders Insurance Agency if you have any questions, would like more information on return to work, or access to exclusive return to work resources.  

This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.