As winter approaches there’s still much uncertainty about what’s next on the pandemic trajectory of Covid-19, but one thing is for sure – the economic impact of the virus is beginning to bite, and getting people back to work in office environments is high on the priority list for both businesses and governments alike.
Bringing employees back into the workplace in the midst of a continuing pandemic might be essential for stimulating economic growth, but it isn’t without risk – and for employees who have been safely and contentedly working from home over recent months, it may be a daunting prospect. It’s vital for all businesses to take whatever steps they can to minimise the risk of infection as their full workforces return to the office – and to have robust plans in place should further infection spikes necessitate a return to home working. Having a toolkit in place for all eventualities is a smart move that demonstrates commitment to employee safety, and will reduce upheaval in the event of future lockdowns. Here are some of the essentials we think no post-pandemic workplace should be without!
Employees returning to the office for the first time in six months need both practical instruction about new protocols around infection, and visual reassurance that their employer is taking proactive steps to keep them safe. Portable signage allows you to do both in a cost-effective and versatile way. Retractable banners, tension banners and sidewalk signs can all be used in both indoor and outdoor environments to display important messages about Covid protocols including physical distancing, hand hygiene and PPE. As well as being visually attention-grabbing, these displays are easy to clean and can withstand regular disinfection in line with the relevant guidelines for surface hygiene.
Hand sanitizer stations
Our hands are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to spreading infection – coughing, sneezing or even just touching our faces contaminates our hands which in turn can leave pathogens on everything we touch. Regularly sanitising our hands is a first line of defense against illness and positioning hand sanitizer stations throughout the workplace is the best way to ensure employees get into the habit of doing this regularly. From dispenser-style stations delivering a metered dose of hand sanitizer, to heavy duty models designed for industrial workplaces, there’s a hand sanitizer stand to suit any location.
Almost all offices will already have a cleaning contractor in place and are very likely to have increased the frequency of their cleaning schedule dramatically – but there’s still room for employees to take responsibility on office hygiene. Door handles, phones, keyboards, elevator buttons, washroom fixtures and kitchen or cafeteria surfaces are the worst culprits for spreading infection so there’s no such thing as cleaning too often. Equipping workstations with a small kit containing antibacterial wipes, or placing a bottle of antibacterial spray and some paper towels in the kitchen, or beside the elevator, encourages staff to take control on hygiene at work and supports your professional cleaning regime.
Of course, there’s no evidence that plants can stop Covid-19 – but research does show that having plants in the office can reduce respiratory problems and enhance overall wellbeing, with a significant impact on workplace illness. Plants reduce dust and clean the air – removing pathogens, allergens and other irritants such as VOCs, which are leached into the air by plastic furniture, carpets, textiles and computers. They replace this with oxygen and water, raising humidity levels for a more comfortable working environment. As a result, staff report fewer issues such as coughs, colds, dry skin, headaches, eye problems and allergies. Just looking at a little bit of nature in the office is also proven to reduce stress and increase productivity!
Pop-up meeting backdrops
As part of their social distancing measures, many companies are allowing increased flexibility for staff to work from home, perhaps splitting their time evenly between the two. As well as permitting employees to space out more on their days in the office, this is one way companies are preparing for potential lockdowns in future, by ensuring staff remain accustomed to working at home. Using pop-up meeting backdrops means that businesses can present a consistent, branded image in online meetings – and by using these backdrops both in the office and at home, it’s impossible to know where each participant is at any given time. As well as protecting your employees’ privacy, a retractable meeting backdrop can help them to create a corporate space within their home without the need for a dedicated office, and ensures that clients are always presented with a professional image of your business and personnel.