The Workplace After COVID-19: New Normal

Is your workplace ready for the new normal? In addition to existing office security guidelines, there are additional safety measures businesses can take to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace. The CDC recommends using a COVID-19 office safety guide to help you determine what important updates you may need to make in your building to ensure the health of your staff.

Office buildings are prime places for diseases like this to spread, since there are many different people coming and going throughout the day, and most have to pass through common entry points like lobbies, security checkpoints, and elevators. As we start to go back to work after coronavirus, there are additional safety protocol measures your business can take to provide a safer work environment for your employees from the moment they enter the premises.

Reducing Coronavirus Transmission at Work

COVID-19 44% of Small Businesses have employees self monitoring for symptoms

The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace is to keep the germs out in the first place. Follow these coronavirus office safety tips to help your employees stop the virus from spreading at work.

  • Educate your staff on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and dedicate additional HR resources to answering their questions about what to do if they become ill, or are exposed to someone who is sick. 

  • Any employee who feels ill should stay home to prevent spreading germs in the office. Consider implementing flexible sick time policies or additional sick leave to accommodate employees who test positive for coronavirus. 

  • Minimize physical contact for employees who are high-risk for contracting the virus. Encourage remote work if possible, or provide a more isolated working environment within the office. You can also recommend that employees wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth or personal protective equipment (PPE) while in the office.

  • Discourage handshaking. It’s almost an involuntary response, especially when doing business, but the CDC strongly advises against handshakes during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Suspend or limit business travel, and follow all CDC travel guidelines, including following proper self-isolation and quarantine procedures for any employee who does travel.

  • Support employee hygiene by keeping tissues, hand sanitizer, soap, disinfectant wipes readily available to all employees.

  • While thermal cameras in offices and checking temperatures at the door may seem like a good way to scan employees, customers and visitors for fever symptoms associated with COVID-19, keep in mind that this technology requires additional privacy regulations. If you do choose to install thermal cameras for temperature screenings in your office, make sure you are taking extra measures to protect personal data and identity information that may be collected via your thermal video surveillance systems. With temperature scans at entry points, extra sanitation between use is key to prevent possible contamination, and could greatly slow the flow of traffic in and out of your facility.

  • Contact tracing helps track, report and isolate cases of coronavirus should it affect anyone in your office or building. With Bluetooth contact tracing technology making tracking and reporting cases faster and more efficient, this can be a valuable asset in preventing transmission as you return to work. In order to protect data and privacy, ensure you are using a system that employs end-to-end encryption and anonymous identifiers.

Social Distancing in the Office

COVID-19 39% of Small businesses are requiring 6ft social distancing between employees and customers.

Putting more distance between people has proven to be key to keeping the transmission of COVID-19 under control, and is a continued protocol under the United States government guidelines for opening up the country again. With social distancing becoming the new normal, we can expect the layout of our offices to change as well. Larger spaces, fewer people, and the advent of the “six-feet office” are all starting to make their way into post-COVID-19 office designs around the world. You can implement similar techniques in your office with the following workplace social distancing policies: 

  • Create flexible worksites that accommodate remote work and telework. Allow for fewer people in the office, reduce on-site meetings, and discourage visitors unless absolutely necessary. Make sure your meeting spaces and workstations are set up with the best technology for remote collaboration with our Smart Office Guide

  • Stagger work schedules to minimize the number of employees in a space at one time. You can implement daily staggered shifts, or have a percentage of your staff work remotely for one week, then come into the office the next week. Ensure that thorough cleanings are done between shifts.

  • Reconfigure worksites to add more distance between employees. Space desks at least six feet apart, and discourage shared equipment or workstations. You can use physical barriers, like plexiglass or plastic dividers, and floor decals to help guide employees or customers on where to walk to maintain the recommended distance.

  • Set lower capacity thresholds for common areas. If you have access to real-time reporting, you can use space management tools to determine the best course of action. You can also automate this process with occupancy management systems that count the number of entries and exits in real-time, and disable access until the number falls below the threshold.

  • If possible, offer remote or digital services, and change to curbside pickup and delivery options to minimize physical contact. 

COVID-19 Workplace Reopening Guide

COVID-19 workplace reopening phases and safety guide

Before you return to the office, you should follow the COVID-19 reopening office guidelines outlined by the CDC and health authorities. The best way to mitigate risk in your office is to remove threats to safety and security, including reducing the number of common touch points throughout your building, before your employees return to the office. Consider updating to hands-free technology, and making a few critical updates prior to reopening your office.

  • Studies have shown that the coronavirus doesn't spread as easily in outdoor areas, or spaces with good ventilation. Prior to returning to the office, consider installing high-efficiency air filters and better HVAC or ventilation systems to reduce the viral load in workplace interiors.

  • Identify where and how coronavirus could be transmitted at your workplace. Consider all the high-traffic areas and touch points of your facility: door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, lobbies, bathrooms, break rooms, and shared offices. Then make a plan to mitigate risk in those areas with additional cleaning and disinfection, both prior to reopening the office and as a new normal routine.

  • Update your door access control methods to a hands-free option. Offering motion-detection features for its readers, a Bluetooth-based system like Openpath eliminates extra touch points in high-traffic access areas like lobbies, elevators and entryways. An all-in-one product like the Single Door Access Controller makes it easy to implement hands-free access control in any size space, even if you only have one or two entries. 

  • Take your safety protocols a step further and integrate your Openpath touchless access control system with automatic door openers, which allow employees to enter and exit without touching a door handle.

  • Install antimicrobial hardware throughout your facility. Door handles, push/pull locks, emergency exit devices and more are now available with a silver ion coating that can help slow the spread of bacteria and viruses.

  • Switch to mobile credentials and cloud-based security systems to eliminate the need for keycards and physical badges. Not only are keycards, fobs and RFID badges prone to misuse and misplacement, they require the user to touch them in order to enter a building, not to mention guest passes are often a shared credential. With Openpath mobile credentials, the user just needs their smartphone to enter (which they’re less likely to lend to coworkers, or forget at home).

  • Use a cloud-based system for 24/7 remote management, ideal for accommodating work-from-home schedules, but still allowing employees, deliveries, and maintenance to access the building when nobody is there.  

  • Elevators are a common touch point in enterprise business locations and multi-tenant offices. The small, confined space makes it hard to maintain proper distancing in a shared elevator, so you should only allow one or two people to ride at a time. But there's also concern over touching the elevator buttons. Infectious disease expert Dr. Daniel Griffin warns that "everyone is going to be pushing the same buttons with their hands," and it's hard to clean them after every single use. Use a mobile credential like Openpath as one component of your touch-free elevator technology, which can also take tenants only to the floors they have approved access to for added security.

  • Invest in more automated and voice-activated technology. Being able to manage daily operations from a personal device can eliminate common touch points throughout the workspace. Secure your system via encrypted technology on the cloud to keep security risks low, as well as offer greater flexibility for administrators.

  • Automate and enforce symptom screenings for all employees and staff by connecting web-based wellness attestation forms to a security system via open API. With Openpath’s configurations, you can set requirements for each user to complete a daily symptom assessment in order for their mobile credentials to unlock a door, without needing to check individual forms or station a guard at the building.

  • Set new social distancing policies throughout your building to reduce crowding in lobbies, entries, and common spaces. Schedule arrivals in staggered shifts, make use of video conferencing and virtual meeting tools instead of large in-person meetings, discourage social gatherings in common areas and remove shared appliances from break rooms and lunch rooms. 

  • Eliminate porous surfaces and fabrics throughout your facility. Lobby chairs, carpets, and wall tapestries can harbor coronavirus particles for up to a week without sanitization.

  • Consistent communication and reinforcement of new protocols is key to maintaining the new COVID-19 return to workplace standards. Post reminders throughout your facility, send updated guidelines as new information becomes available, and distribute training and development tools to your team so everyone is prepared.

Office Safety and Sanitation After COVID-19

COVID-19 69% of employers adopt frequent cleaning practices

As we start to go back to work after coronavirus, there are additional safety protocol measures your business can take to continue to provide a safer work environment for your employees. In addition to regular cleaning with soap and water, you should implement these COVID-19 reopening maintenance procedures to ensure the health and safety of your entire team.

  • Schedule daily cleaning and disinfection to all high-touch surfaces in your office, such as door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets, should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily. For surfaces with the most use in public spaces like PIN pads, shopping carts, and point-of-sale keypads, you'll need to thoroughly clean and disinfect before each use.

  • Make sure you are using an EPA-approved disinfectant for coronavirus , and following all necessary dilution and protection practices according to the label.

  • Increase the frequency of routine deep cleanings, with a focus on high-touch surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.

  • Increase your security measures. Traditional security systems may not be well-equipped for a post-coronavirus office environment. Now more than ever, you should be aware of who is coming and going from your facility, be able to track that data in real-time, and react swiftly in case of an emergency. With remote work and staggered shifts likely to continue, make sure your security system offers cloud-based access so you can easily control access to your facility remotely and offer better security for your employees.

Key Takeaways for Coronavirus Office Safety Guide

The most important factor of your business is the health and safety of your employees. While it may seem daunting to adjust your workplace policies after COVID-19, it’s vital to approach the return to the office with an abundance of caution. To ensure both your facilities and employees are prepared for a post-coronavirus work environment, you should establish COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines to mitigate risk and reduce the transmission of germs between employees. Prior to reopening your office after COVID-19, make sure you follow appropriate sanitation and disinfection guidelines. While personal hygiene plays a key role in preventing the virus from spreading, there are many control factors for businesses to consider, including updating to hands-free door access methods, reconfiguring offices to allow for social distancing, and increasing disinfection and sanitization frequency in high-touch areas of the workplace. 

Take extra precautions to keep your employees safe by updating your security system to offer hands-free door entry. Contact an Openpath team member to get started. 

Additional resources: