As COVID-19 vaccinations are ramping up, more New York companies are preparing themselves and their employees to return to the office. According to a March 2021 survey conducted by The Partnership for New York City, almost half of Manhattan’s one million office workers are expected to return by September 2021, with 22% of employers ultimately intending for all personnel to return to the office full-time, and 66% intending to implement a hybrid model of part remote, part office-based work.
First steps in preparing for your return to the office
Companies preparing to make the transition back to the office will first need to acquaint themselves with the protocols published in July 2020 in New York Forward, the New York State Government’s program to safely reopen businesses and institutions in New York. Beyond providing information and guidelines, the program also requires companies to prove they have understood their obligations to create a safe office environment by signing the Interim Guidance for Office-Based Work During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and completing the NY Forward Safety Plan Template.
In this blog, we take a look at some of the measures companies will need to comply with as they prepare to safely welcome personnel and visitors back to their office spaces, and some best practices to consider. It is not an official guide, although, as you have seen, we do share links to some of the key official resources.
Keep the distance; 6ft gap remains in place
Physical distancing will remain a must in the workspace, with personnel having to preserve the 6ft gap between them, and when that’s not possible, making sure they have a face covering in place. The most complicated areas to maintain physical distance are high-transit areas, such as turnstiles and delivery areas.
Best practice: consider using a one-way traffic flow throughout the office that personnel can easily remember. Take a look at the office floor layout and assess how employees could more safely approach communal areas like printers, and restrooms. Use tape, signage, and floor markers to indicate how they should best navigate the office space to keep themselves and their colleagues at a safe distance.
Keep it clean; preventing desks from becoming a bacteria hotspot
When it comes to hygiene and disinfection, companies must adhere to requirements from both the CDC and Department of Health which include providing personnel with sanitization equipment such as face coverings and hand sanitizer and maintaining a cleaning log.
Companies must also ensure that equipment and tools, such as laptops, telephones, and work surfaces are shared as little as possible.
Best practice: implement a strict clean-desk policy so that personnel are not leaving high-touch, items on their desks such as wallets, notebooks, and personal phones. Some offices are going beyond, replacing personal desks with empty, sanitized hot desks bookable via an app, and giving employees their own dedicated keyboard and mouse which is sanitized and stored in a personal locker when not use.
Keep it clear; help your employees navigate the changes with clear communication
Communication is one of the most complex areas for companies to handle. Changing rules and guidelines have been a characteristic of the pandemic, and as the vaccination program advances, so will they continue to change. According to a survey by the Institute of Internal Communication in the UK, 71% of internal communication professionals reported a significant increase in workload and capacity, and 61% reported issuing COVID-19 related messages on a daily basis.
The importance of swift, clear communication is key to a) ensure that leaders can make quick, sound decisions relating to their return-to-work strategy, and b) guide employees by making them aware of their responsibilities and providing them with the direction and resources to continue to work with as little disruption as possible.
Best practice: make sure your critical updates stand out by creating clear categories of information and email formats to reflect them (e.g. action, compliance, information). Make sure they stand out from other communications and that recipients can instantly understand the urgency of the information being relayed, the action or compliance required on their behalf, and the implications of non-action or compliance.
At SaGE Workspace, the wellbeing and safety of our customers are paramount so we make sure that all of our workspaces, including SaGE Workspace NYC, strictly follow COVID-19 office safety protocols, including:
- Sanitizing Workspaces After Each Booking
- Sanitizing EquipmentAfter Use
- Social Distancing and Floor Markers
- Mandating Face Coverings
- Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitization
- Gloves and Sanitizing Stations Available
- Contact Tracing
We wish everyone a safe and productive return to the office.