A month ago, most companies were planning on full returns to the workplace in the fall. But now that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is taking the world a few steps back, it’s unclear whether this return to the workplace will happen as planned. Facebook, Google and Twitter already announced in July that they’re pushing back their return to work date, and it’s likely that other companies will follow suit.
Now, a year and a half after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s starting to seem like workplaces will never again operate like they once did. Even those planning on returning to the office soon are mostly counting on a hybrid work schedule, where employees only spend a few days in the office.
What does this mean for the security industry? Well, not only are security professionals trying to decide what to do with their own employees, but the companies they serve are also looking to them for guidance. Here are some considerations that you, and the companies you serve, should make before bringing employees back to the office.
1. Evaluate the Building
If your office building has been standing vacant for the duration of the pandemic, the first step to reopening should include taking a good, hard look at the space. Check for hazards like mold growth, rodents and stagnant water systems. Ensure that ventilation systems are operating properly; if your HVAC system has been shut down, review new construction startup guidance provided in ASHRAE Standard 180-2018. Increase the circulation of outdoor air in the office by opening windows and doors, and using fans. And, most relevant, evaluate your security and life safety systems to ensure they’re working properly, and that they meet the needs of the post-COVID-19 world.
2. Consider COVID-19 Exposure
Before bringing employees back, it’s important to conduct a thorough assessment of potential workplace hazards that could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Identify work and common areas where employees will be in close contact with others, such as meeting rooms, break rooms and check-in areas. Is there anything you can do to these spaces to reduce that risk of transmission? You should also communicate with the janitorial staff ahead of time about enhanced cleaning measures.
3. Create New Policies
In any office, it’s likely that you will want to make some changes before employees return to their desks. Make sure everyone is on the same page ahead of time by communicating these changes to employees ASAP. Will you require everyone to be vaccinated? Will they have to take a COVID-19 test? And if so, how often? If someone does test positive, what steps will be taken to maintain the health of the rest of the building’s occupants? Maybe you’ll give a hybrid work schedule a shot — which also means you’ll have to come up with a schedule of when each employee will be in the building.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of all that needs to be done before offices reopen, but it is a good start. Remember that your employees and your customers are looking to you for guidance, and don’t take that fact lightly. Do what’s best for the team, and don’t be afraid to ask for their opinions.