I think we all breathed a sigh of relief with today's announcement that New Zealand (except Auckland) will be moving to level 2 at 11.59 on the 7th September.
As we all start heading back into the office, employers need to have plans in place to ensure their employees can return safely and customers can return to the premises. Helen Mason, our H&S specialist, shared a few ideas to help you prepare for reopening under Delta level 2 conditions.
1. Rearranging furniture
The most obvious and immediate way to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is to rearrange existing office furniture to ensure they comply with social distancing protocols. If possible, employees’ desks should be spaced 2 metres apart from each other, while other furniture can be rearranged or even removed to add more space. Social distancing can be enforced further with visual design cues to enforce the 2 metre rule and one-way traffic may also be enforced to keep employees from making unnecessary contact.
2. Surfaces should also be cleaned more frequently, especially within common areas or with shared items.
Ensure your cleaner/cleaning company has a robust plan in place and share this with your team. Order extra cleaning supplies so that employees can wipe and disinfect any areas they have used. You might want to consider asking employees to use their own allocated cup and cutlery, or making sure your dishwasher is set to disinfect and frequently cleaned.
3. Repurpose communal spaces
For many businesses, large, communal spaces are not being used to comply with social distancing guidelines. These spaces include larger conference rooms, employee lounges and smoko rooms. Rather than avoiding these rooms altogether, why not repurpose the rooms as temporary workspaces so employees can spread out. If your company has space outside, you can encourage your employees outdoors with weather permitting.
4. Preventing the spread
Covid-19 is spread through droplets when we talk, cough and breathe. The delta variant is in the air we breath; airborne so improving air filtration and ventilation is one way to mitigate against these tiny, potentially viral particles.
5. Rethink the reception area
Prior to Covid-19, most open offices offered a reception area where customers, clients or other visitors were typically greeted, then encouraged to sit or grab a cup of coffee while they waited for whomever they were scheduled to meet with. While this approach certainly made customers feel more comfortable and welcome, reception areas in the post-COVID could see a major overhaul with new regulations for mask wearing and scanning.
Have hand sanitizer available at key areas.
6. Stay home if unwell
Support a workplace culture that encourages people to stay home if they are feeling unwell. Anyone with cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and call their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.
7. Different experiences of leaving Lockdown
The break from "business as usual" will affect people in different ways. Some will have new duties or have started working remotely. Many will have struggled with the challenges of lockdown – juggling working from home with childcare responsibilities etc. For others, this period may have brought some benefits, such as more flexible working hours and more with family. For some, the "pause" may even have been rejuvenating, giving us new goals, ideas and perspectives.
It's important to bear all of these different attitudes in mind as you prepare to bring your team back to work.
Helen is a Health & Safety consultant with a wealth of experience within the industry. If you have any workplace Health & Safety concerns when returning back to work, please feel free to contact her directly via linkedin