DISCLAIMER – LEGAL STATEMENT
Please be advised that some or all of the information contained in this document may not be applicable to all businesses or places of work. We strongly recommend that before implementing any of the ideas contained herein you carefully evaluate, and consult with outside legal counsel as appropriate, the legality, applicability, and potential efficacy of this information in your place of business. Please also note that this is a “living” document that may be updated at any time by MABE given the fluidity of this situation. MABE bears no responsibility for any circumstances arising out of or related to the adoption, or decision not to adopt, any of the practices or procedures contained in The Essential Changes For Workplace Re-Entry plan.
A message from the Managing Director of MABE
As I am sure you can imagine, if you’re reading this as a business owner, like you, I too have had many questions and concerns over the present events and what could be the aftermath of COVID-19. Almost all of us in business, large or small find ourselves firmly placed within new territory, full of rapid twists and turns and, in some cases, darkness leading to a complete shutdown of business almost overnight. We never saw it coming and so never could possibly imagine it would turn out to be an enormous factor in our business environments.
Change can come into our lives as a result of a crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. In either situation, we are all faced with having to make a choice – do we make the change or not? COVID-19 will be one for the history books and so, it is up to all of us, as business owners to adapt and ensure from our combined efforts, we come together and support each other through this current storm.
As a result of COVID-19, our agency has had to adapt in supporting our clients as one would expect but, we knew and felt that we could go a little further in supporting not only our clients but also, as managing consultants – be on hand to offer advice and guidance to all that needed it.
Over the last month, our agency has been in touch with a number of business experts and industry leaders from various professions around the globe to help us produce a comprehensive set of guidelines we believe may enable business owners to plan ahead in the preparation for the return back to work ensuring that safety remains the top priority for all.
Initially, we wanted to create a document for ourselves however, we have decided to share the information we have collated to anyone that may find it useful.
I hope that we all find a new togetherness as a result of COVID-19.
We at MABE wish you all a safe and speedy return back to business soon.
We’re living in a time of unprecedented disruption, from a social, economic, and psychological standpoint. Not only has the outbreak put immense pressure on healthcare globally, but has changed our day to day lives. COVID-19 changed the way we shop, the way we socialize and created lasting interconnected challenges to our health and economy. While there have been talks on loosening some of the restrictions of the nation-wide lockdown, the UK government officials have been taking the situation seriously, even more so after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus several weeks ago. According to the latest government figures, the number of deaths recorded in the UK passed Italy’s total, becoming the highest in Europe. We are a long way from returning to the way things were, and especially the ways business is conducted.
On 15 April 2020 the European Commission set out a European ‘roadmap’ designed to manage the structured exit from various lockdown measures across member states within the E.U. European countries that have recently taken the first tentative steps towards loosening up COVID-19 restrictions include Spain, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Austria, with some businesses and schools being allowed to reopen. In France, it is currently expected that the restrictions will start to be lifted from 11 May 2020. In other parts of the world, there are also signs of a tentative recovery and relaxation of lockdown.
Some jurisdictions have started to implement preventative measures for the return to work, and over the next few weeks and months, the UK government will loosen certain restrictions, which will allow most of us to go back to work.
In China there are requirements for companies to undergo strict approval processes (including stringent health and safety tests) in order to re-open their businesses. In Germany the Federal Cabinet has adopted additional occupational safety standards.
It is safe to say there will not be a perfect match between those who can safely return to work and the workers who are needed for the businesses ready to reopen but equipped with the right approach and procedures, we can ensure that return to the workplace is safe for everyone. A radical rethink of the working environment is therefore likely to be necessary to ensure that cases of COVID-19 are not spread within the workplace.
This article lays out a framework to help ensure you have all the necessary information and a list of common actions that will be required to open up your offices again safely.
Air filtration system: Internal system of fans that pull air into filters and remove airborne particles, circulate the air, and return purified air back in the room.
Clean: Removing dirt from a surface. It’s the first step before sanitizing or disinfecting.
Close contact: As per UK government guidelines, close contact means “living in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, caring for a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, being within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for about 15 minutes, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g., sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic.”
Disinfect: Killing close to 100% of germs (such as coronavirus) on hard surfaces.
Electrostatic disinfection: Type of deep clean that uses electrostatic spray technology to evenly coat surfaces. The spray contains positively charged particles that adhere to negatively charged surfaces in a uniform manner. The spray has a sanitizing agent that disinfects the surface area.
HEPA filters: High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters – a type of filter that traps particles 0.01 micron (10 nanometers) and above, blocking dust, pollen, mold, and airborne coronaviruses. (The virus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 0.125 micron (125 nanometers) in diameter.)
High-touch surfaces: Include, but are not limited to tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, printers, etc.
PHE: Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom responsible for delivering public health improvement, through prevention and awareness-raising and protection and infection control.
PPE: Personal Protective Equipment. This includes (but is not limited to) masks, gloves, goggles, face shields, etc. worn to minimize exposure to pathogens.
Sanitize: Lowering the number of germs on a hard surface to a safe level, as judged by public health standards.
WFH: Work from home.
WHO: World Health Organization – an agency of the United Nations responsible for leading international partners in global health responses.
UVL: Ultra-violet lighting – method of disinfecting surfaces with waves of ultraviolet light.
The Essential Changes that All Offices, Big and Small, Need to Make
Upfront Disinfecting Deep Clean
Prior to return to the workplace, it is critical to do a deep clean with a thorough focus on disinfecting. For those with larger teams of over 100 people, the recommendation is to perform an electrostatic deep clean, which ensures all surfaces are covered. For all companies, at a minimum, a deep clean with a disinfecting emphasis on high-frequency areas is required.
Create and Circulate a Plan in Advance
Before returning to the workplace, it’s crucial to let all the employees know upfront what they can expect and how the day-to-day business will be conducted. In advance of the first day back, all employees should be introduced to the new protocols that must be followed with respect to increased sanitation and social distancing to ensure everyone is safe. It is advisable to create a dedicated team within your current workforce that takes on the responsibility of ensuring all employees are up to date on the new protocols and should they have any concerns or questions, the dedicated team is always on hand to advise or help.
Before your team returns, circulate an internal message sharing how workplace re-entry is being conducted for your office to ensure everyone is safe. Remind employees to constantly wash and sanitize their hands and provide signage on how to properly socially distance in the office, including ones that state limits on maximum capacity in high-trafficked areas such as communal areas, and even bathrooms.
Use visual markers to clearly define the amount of safe space recommended, such as floor markers that supermarkets, pharmacies, and other businesses that have been operating during the lockdown had already put in place. We need to ensure that the workplace is a safe place, but also a place where we can be productive and creative. While making sure all employees are compliant with the new protocol, framing messaging in the affirmative instead of the negative, helps the employees to ease into the workplace and adjust to the new normal.
It is especially important to remind teams to follow the guidelines around face coverings, self-quarantine policies, and visitor/customer policy.
If you want people to do something, make it easy. Setting up “sanitation stations” around the workplace, including the entrance, major walkway areas, and communal areas is essential, as is making sure that both employees and visitors know where they are located (within eyesight is best) and encouraged to use them at all times.
These Sanitation Stations should have waterless hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes, as well as a conveniently located trash bin to dispose of those items. We recommend using more industrial-sized containers of wipes and hand sanitizer or standing automated hand sanitizer dispensers.
It is recommended to ensure that all employees have a proper social distancing (six-foot) distance from each other at all times during the workday. The easiest way to achieve that is by providing the option of working remotely (work from home) whenever possible. Enabling employees to partially work from home creates more open space that you can use to enable the six-foot radius for workstations.
To better enable social distancing, employers can create several different shifts for employees during the day. For those workplaces that have a manufacturing element, this may be more easily achieved. For those that require all work largely completed in the same hours, it may be more feasible to just have an alternating WFH and in-office schedule for your team. Consider employing social distancing measures in all communal areas including meeting rooms and even in restrooms.
We recommend providing employees with an adequate number of face coverings for the week along with other vital PPE. Contrary to what healthcare workers need to safely perform their duties, facility and workplace professionals do not need N95 or KN95 masks. At a minimum, cloth or makeshift masks should be worn during the day, except when eating or drinking. This will be a critical step to avoid the rapid spread of COVID-19 within the office if a team member were to become infected. Consider providing “Return to Work” kits for your employees, that would include a cloth or silicone mask (with inserts), hand sanitizer, tissues, and disposable gloves.
During the past few months as the UK has tackled the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers including doctors and nurses have complained of a lack of adequate PPE. The Department of Health asked hospitals not to order their own PPE but to rely on the government’s national procurement scheme, but with delivery problems with PPE thus far, are encouraging more organizations to continue to place their own orders.
This is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the UK. Therefore, caution is advised when sourcing for PPE.
Amid a row over the procurement of PPE in April, the UK government announced it had managed to source a large supply from Turkey for front-line workers. Upon delivery it was reported that the equipment does not meet mandatory specifications or pass quality assurance processes and will be returned back to the supplier.
MABE have researched and sourced a list of vetted suppliers of PPE from across the globe and will share our list free of charge upon request to any business who may need access to manufacturers of products. We strongly advise all businesses to act upon this as soon as possible to avoid lengthy supply chain delays due to the high volumes of increased demands.
Recurring Disinfecting Services
It is critical to disinfect the high touch parts of your office on a daily basis, including light switches, doors, kitchen, and other equipment, as well as desktops and touchpoints. Most existing cleaning specifications will need to be enhanced to step up frequencies and the scope of work, and all cleaning professionals should be trained and outfitted with proper levels of PPE.
It’s recommended to conduct a disinfecting deep clean of the space on a weekly Basis, that should involve cleaning beyond the scope of a typical daily clean and disinfecting areas that are generally given less attention due to lower frequency of use.
Modify Food and Drink Services
Consider how you can minimize the number of touchpoints and minimize food and drink contamination. Communal beverages should be discouraged (e.g., communal coffee and water machines) where possible, and all meals, including snacks should be individually packaged. Make sure to provide disinfecting wipes next to all communal machines so individuals can wipe down all touchpoints after use. As a policy, it is wise to require team members to disinfect a conference room table, telephone, and chair after each use in communal areas.
We strongly suggest creating a policy that limits access to the office for at least the first 30 days back. If you do allow visitors, track them rigorously, allowing visitor access to certain areas only. to avoid contamination of people and spaces. We also recommend not hosting any events at your office for the first 60 days back. Whenever possible conduct meetings via conference calls.
Consider the New User Experience in the Office
Be very intentional about how your employees and visitors will move throughout the space, from the point of entry to the exit. Think about how you can optimize the experience for positive visual cues around cleanliness and consistent social distancing. Create one-way routes within the premises so that individuals are less likely to have to walk past each other. In workplaces without individual offices, consider adding plexiglass screens between workstations, as well as reception areas, to help mitigate the potential transmission of fluids between people. This is especially useful in offices where a six-foot radius between workstations is not possible.
Create a Touchless Experience
For high-frequency touch areas, wherever reasonable, consider moving to a “hands-free” option. There are many instances of “high touch items” in an office, from elevator buttons and door handles, to water coolers, garbage bin lids, and shared office supplies such as staplers, whiteboard markers, and technical equipment and cables.
Consider using antimicrobial or nanoseptic tape, desk mats and/or covers on door handles in high touch areas, set up sanitation stations conveniently next to light switches and other high-frequency touch areas, and consider providing employees with their own individual items of office supplies and equipment.
If possible, switch to using UVL bulbs and lighting solutions as ultraviolet antimicrobial lighting has the benefit of being a continuous source of disinfectant through the lights in high touch, high traffic, or critical areas such as restrooms, conference rooms, and kitchens. Good ventilation is also key: the importance of fresh air is shown by findings that the virus spreads much more easily indoors than outside.
Self-isolation and quarantine
All employees should be vigilant about self-quarantining if they show any of the symptoms of COVID-19. We recommend requiring team members to self-quarantine if they feel ill at all, especially if there is any sign of a mild fever. As per NHS guidelines, the recommended quarantine time is 14 days. Implement or update continuity planning if key players in your office test positive for COVID-19 and schedule a deep clean immediately upon learning a team member develops any symptoms or had been in close contact with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19.
Provide WFH Equipment to Your Team
Securing a safe and productive working environment equivalent to that found in the workplace will often require extensive checks of equipment and the adjustment or replacement of work equipment. Set up your team for success by providing them with all the essential equipment for setting up their workstations at home, by either providing the equipment or allocating a budget that employees can spend to create a work-friendly environment in the comfort of their own homes.
This is a tough time for everyone and maintaining employees’ trust and confidence will be key to ensuring a smooth transition back into the workplace. As noted, workers can expect enhanced health and safety measures, including greater availability of hand sanitisers (and encouragement to use these) and deep cleans of their workspaces. The coronavirus outbreak shows the critical importance of sound occupational safety and health measures and conditions in all sectors of activity.
In addition to providing employees with insight and training on how to navigate the new workplace protocols, acknowledging the importance of mental health is a necessity. Providing your team with adequate mental health resources will reduce stress and anxiety of the unknown, making sure that the transition is as smooth and easy as possible.
Below is a summary of advice for employers and businesses in England to follow to protect their workforce and customers, whilst continuing to trade. It includes social distancing, hygiene, cleanliness, staff sickness advice, and staying at home.
For advice to businesses in other nations of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Government.
More advice on social distancing is available. Some people are extremely vulnerable to severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) and need to be shielded. See more advice on shielding.
View general FAQs on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and what you can and cannot do.
This guidance may be updated in line with the changing situation. For further information on how to prepare your business for the return back to work or, if you have any questions related to this document please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org referencing COVID-19 RE-ENTRY
A Special thanks to our NHS in the fight to beat Covid-19
Stay safe, healthy, and positive!