As vaccinations increase nationwide and the weather warms, a general sense has emerged amongst the public that a return to a “new normal” is forthcoming. The biosecurity protocols, or lack thereof, for many businesses have been exposed throughout the pandemic. While the office reopening goalposts have been pushed back multiple times over the past year, it seems as though July 4th will mark the return to in-person work for many, with others planning returns around Labor Day. As these dates approach, it is critical that businesses begin planning for reopening now, and avoid waiting until the last minute. . When done properly, a comprehensive and well-communicated biosecurity plan will lead to greater confidence and trust from employees, as well as increased productivity and decreased absenteeism upon reopening.
Have a dialogue with employees
It goes without saying that this year has caused a major shift for workers from nearly all industries. With over a year of remote work experience for many office workers, it is crucial that employers have a dialogue with their teams to determine what they expect when they eventually return to the office. Every employee is different, and many will have different priorities. Opening this conversation with a set date in mind and a robust communication plan that highlights biosecurity measures based in science and best practices can help create an environment of trust and transparency while stemming potential pushback from employees who feel unprepared to return. By empowering your employees to share their concerns and suggestions management can assure a smoother transition as well as happier, safer, and more productive employees.
Speak with building management regarding their protocols
If you are a tenant of a larger building, it is critical to engage building management on existing and new biosecurity protocols and what has changed over the past year. For example, you will want to know whether they have centralized temperature scanning for the full building to determine whether you will need to implement that measure specifically for your office. Another important determination is who has control over the HVAC equipment that serves your space, and if it is the building, ask what the building has done to improve indoor air quality and biosecurity measures. Specific questions might include, “What is the outdoor air percentage being provided to my office?” “What filters are installed on the equipment?” and “Were any other technologies installed in the HVAC system to improve indoor air quality?” Finally, if regular cleaning services are being provided by your building, it is important to ask how those services may have changed during the pandemic, what improvements have been made, and what products are being utilized. By asking these questions, you will learn the extent of the building’s biosecurity protocols and be able to determine what additional precautions your company may need to take to keep employees safe.
Create your reopening plan based on up-to-date and science based information
Easier said than done, but still critically important. Speaking with employees and building management, as mentioned above, will help to set a framework and establish specific goals. However, there is still a great deal of information out there regarding effective virus transmission and many new technologies claiming to be the best method. It is critical to utilize the resources being put out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (W.H.O), the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), along with local and state governments for guidance. The solutions and guidance from these organizations are directly based on scientific fact and have public health and safety as their top concern. All information and recommendations posted have been 3rd party tested, peer-reviewed, and (in most cases) proven over a long period of time to be safe and effective mitigation strategies and techniques. Once a plan is determined, it is vital to ensure that the necessary products can be acquired and processes implemented within your timeframe and in time for your reopening date.