Staff members who are working from home should stay there for the foreseeable future, one risk leader recommends.
Scott Fotus, vice president of risk services at HUB, stated his recommendation during a webinar hosted by HUB, “Workplace Safety: Employer Obligations and Best Practices.”
“If they can still work remotely, I highly recommend keeping them remote as long as you can,” Fotus said, adding that offices will be safer with a lower concentration of people coming and going. “The concept here is you want to make sure you’re looking at the employees who are critical to your operation [and] that you’re bringing them back first.”
By doing that, leaders need to make sure employees have everything they need to continue working from home successfully, whether that be providing them with more equipment or other support to do their job. “Depending on the type of business that you’re in, you want to make sure they’re equipped with the right products and services so that they can continue being productive,” Fotus said.
However, you should also have a plan in place in case remote employees do need to make a trip into the office. “You want to make sure you’re setting a place up for them to not only be productive when they come in but have their own supplies — whether it’s a stapler, a pen,” he said.
“Ultimately, if you can do a job rotation, or if you can do staggered shifts, or [if you can do] some type of work schedule where you’re off-setting and creating that social distancing, that’s probably the best way to do it.”
Whether it’s the remote employees coming in for only one day, or the essential staff members who have to be there every day, hygiene is going to be a top concern, Fotus observed. People are going to cough and sneeze, so having sanitizer and hand wipes accessible will be important. Remind employees of proper hygiene, whether it’s communicated directly to them or through signage, he added.
What about the office layout? Could that change? Many office spaces nowadays have transformed into open-air, open space workplaces. Could a return to the cubicle-style of the workplace be in the cards? Maybe not in the way it used to be, Fotus said, but there could be more partitions between workspaces going forward.
Consider also physical changes to the office space that might promote safer human behaviours. Take, for example, a meeting room that had 10 chairs around a table. Going forward, maybe there are only five chairs. Arrows could indicate the flow of movement around the office, while communal areas might be closed.
“We’re trying to curb human behaviour and promote social distancing,” Fotus said. “We’re living in a new normal where that’s what you might have to do.”
Other changes that businesses could see is how they meet with their customers. Travel is likely to be limited — and should be because the exposures in other offices are unknown, Fotus said. “You need to make sure that’s part of your workplace hygiene — to make sure that if you’re travelling, to keep those folks out of the office. Because once they come in, that’s potential for contamination.”