Preparing for your return to the office? Five tips to prepare for a safe office reopen

Are you gearing up to return to the workplace?

Preparing for your return to the office? Five tips to prepare for a safe office reopen

Are you gearing up to return to the workplace? If so, here’s how to do so safely and with ease.

By Kathy Wrzos, Acting, Integrated Pandemic Project Lead, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services

  1. Employer concern: How can I prevent COVID transmission in my office? Where do I start?

  • Create and implement a safety plan for your business.  A safety plan is your COVID game plan – it provides a documented approach to what your workplace needs to do and how you’re going to do it.
  • Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) has sample safety plan templates to provide a starting point for your plan and guide you through the process.
  • The safety plan template summarizes your COVID prevention efforts by asking you six questions:
    • How will you ensure all workers know how to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?
    • How will you screen for COVID-19?
    • How will you control the risk of transmission in your workplace?
    • What will you do if there is a potential case of, or suspected exposure to, COVID-19 at your workplace?
    • How will you manage any new risks caused by changes to the way you operate your business?
  1. Employer concern: How do I know my pandemic response is working?

  • The safety plan and your business’ pandemic response may need to evolve with the transition from remote work back to the office.
  • Read the WSPS Operational Planning Tool to help identify gaps in your business’s pandemic response and understand where your business needs to shift and adapt if you need to modify your operations.
  • Get feedback from your pandemic team on your plan. To be most effective, this team should be comprised of members from different roles in your workplace. For example, HR and operations could review staffing requirements against operational need, while the health and safety manager/coordinator reviews COVID protocol development and implementation.
  • Review these sector-specific guidance documents for further tips and guidance based on your industry.
  1. Employer concern: How do I communicate our reopening and safety plan to my staff?

  • Continual and regular communication will support your employees with the transition back to a post pandemic reality.
  • Understanding is key. Ensure your employees understand why they are returning to the office, and the measures in place to prevent COVID transmission to keep them safe.
  • Explain the plan you’ve put in place to support a safe return to the office. Let your staff know what you’re doing, and how you are doing it.
  • Include COVID in your workplace policies so staff have a full understanding of your response to the pandemic and the effect it has on their role.
  • Ask your employees for feedback on the return to the office. Create a way for employees to submit their thoughts and input on protocols. Acknowledge your employee input through regular internal communications.
  • The WSPS Pandemic Playbook lists considerations for providing staff with orientation training on the return to work, and how to effectively communicate with your employees.
  1. Employer concern: What about my employee’s mental health? How can my workplace support employees during the transition back to the office?

  • Returning to the office, childcare demands, fear of contracting COVID-19, and other pressures have leave many employees stressed and anxious.
  • Protecting psychological health and safety is vital for employees, not just during work hours but also supporting them when ‘off the clock’.
  • Employees need to have confidence that the workplace is doing everything possible to support their emotional well-being.
  • Read this article to get 7 tips on supporting your workers’ mental health during the pandemic – both working remotely and in the office.
  1. Employer concern: COVID requirements keep evolving. How do I keep up?

  • As the pandemic evolves, so do the requirements and provincial response.
  • To stay up-to-date, assign a “pandemic compliance officer.” This role is not a legal requirement, but this employee can monitor what is required now, actively track changes, and ensure your workplace meets or exceeds its legal obligations.
  • Monitor provincial and local news sources, the Ontario.ca COVID site and bookmark the website of your local public health unit so that your compliance officer can check regularly for new orders.
  • Follow the enforcement activities of provincial and local police, bylaw officers and workplace inspectors. The focus of these activities may indicate possible opportunities for improvement in your workplace. Expect the focus to shift as priorities change.
  • Communicate changes in legal requirements and workplace controls to your employees so they understand why and how expectations and protocols are changing.
  • Bookmark the WSPS legislative tracker to stay informed on OHS legislation changes.

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