Maintaining a Safe Workplace for Returning Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Now that cities around the world are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions, it has become important for businesses to adopt new strategies and safety precautions before their employees go back to the office. As per global health authorities, evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces, which suggests the need for organizations to administer sanitary regulations and contemplate on the possibility of hands-free technology as part of their workplace reopening strategies.

Workplace safety extends not only to disinfecting and sanitizing the office, but to good communication and healthy office culture as well. It does not stop after disinfection and sanitation; it also extends to good communication and healthy office culture.

These guidelines will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce its impact on your employees as you navigate through this crisis and enter the new normal.

Clean and Disinfect Work Areas Regularly

Know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, as explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Keeping surfaces clean is essential in mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These include laptops, keyboards, desks, keyboards, doorknobs, handles, light switches, faucets, and smartphones. In addition to regular cleaning using soap, water, and cloth, you can also use bleach and hydrogen peroxide but remember to follow all necessary dilution and protection practices according to the label.

Maintaining a Safe Workplace for Returning Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Freepik

Increase Safety and Security Measures

Research shows that the virus does not spread as easily in the outdoors or areas with good ventilation. Installing high-efficiency air filters and better HVACs (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems) will help you lessen the viral load in your office interior.

Employee screening is also highly recommended to better track potential carriers of the virus and it should be done by an official COVID-19 testing personnel. If Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not available, no testing should take place.

 See guidelines below for COVID-19 testing personnel:

  • Screening shall be conducted at the office entrance using thermal scanners requiring no skin contact.
  • Stand behind a plastic or glass partition to avoid respiratory droplets that may be produced when employees talk, cough, or sneeze.
  • Wear a face shield, a pair of disposable gloves, and a gown if you expect to have extensive contact with the employee.
  • Check for signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks or fatigue.
  • See if there is coughing or shortness of breath.
  • Check the temperature by reaching through an opening in the partition. Always keep your face behind the barrier.
  • Reusable thermometers must be cleaned between every check.
  • After screening the last employee, remove and discard PPE and gloves, and then clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If the employee’s temperature is equal to or in excess of 37.4 degrees Celsius, he or she should not be allowed to enter the premises to commence work.

Always remind your employees to wear a face mask when inside the office premises, except only when drinking or eating. Doing so will help them protect themselves especially when it is difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance.

Maintaining a Safe Workplace for Returning Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Image Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Observe Physical Distancing

Keep the transmission of COVID-19 under control by maintaining a safe distance of at least six (6) feet or two (2) meters from one another when possible. Workstations may have to be adjusted and rewiring may have to be done to widen the gap between employees.

Consider the following distancing strategies:

  • Increase physical space between employees’ workstations to ensure six (6) feet of distance.
  • Enable one-way traffic flow through hallways and aisles.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements. This method will lead to fewer people in the office as well as less face-to-face meetings. But before you plunge into a remote work set-up, you must make sure that your team’s IT infrastructure and laptops are well equipped and configured with the best technology for remote collaboration.
  • Arrange work schedules to decrease the number of people in an area at a time. Have some of your team members work remotely for a week, then have them come into the office the next week. Ensure that meticulous sanitation procedures are done between shifts.

Practice Proper Waste Management

Employers should conduct a thorough assessment of the hazards to which their employees may be exposed, then implement good waste disposal measures to avoid the risk of exposure.

  • Provide trash bins lined with a plastic bag for easier and contactless waste segregation.
  • Avoid touching used tissues and other waste when emptying trash bins.
  • Provide your employees with all necessary PPE once risk of infection is identified. Have the COVID-19 testing personnel train them on how to correctly use PPE and make sure that they follow the guidance available.
  • Dispose of items used to clean surfaces immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.

Develop an Effective Communication Strategy

Developing an integrated communication strategy is critical as you and your team navigate through these uncertain times. Now more than ever, it is important to reassure and support your employees who may be going through some challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Below are some of the best practices to consider when communicating with your team members amid the crisis, whether in-house or remote:

  • Give regular and concise updates that are relevant to your industry, business, and workplace.
  • Create an internal communication channel intended for posting company updates.
  • Put together a Communications team that is dedicated to answering questions and disseminating information across all departments.
  • Provide another communication channel where your employees can reach out for any concerns or issues that may arise.
  • Display signage throughout the entire office premises that will keep everyone mindful of safety: physical distancing, proper hygiene, wearing of face mask, cleaning recommendations, room etiquette, and symptom checks.
  • Encourage virtual meetings through video conferencing towards the end of a workday such as team snacks or happy hours, especially for those who are working remotely.

It is essential for leaders to keep your communication lines open and check in regularly with your team as it is easy for collaboration to dwindle without face-to-face interaction, particularly in the case of remote teams. Moreover, tell them how much you appreciate them and reassure them of the continuity of your operations as well as your core mission and values.

 

While timelines for reopening offices and resuming business activity remain fluid, businesses are expected to bring employees back to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As an employer and leader, it is your responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of your employees. Adopting a shift in workplace policies during this crisis may seem daunting, but approaching these efforts with an abundance of caution can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and ensure both your employees and facilities are prepared for the new normal after this pandemic.

7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected

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In the past couple of months, remote work has been on the rise because of how the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt to enable continuity of operations. This global health crisis has likewise led to organizations being accustomed to different schedules and habits that make remote work both manageable and productive. While this work arrangement can spur a great deal of difficulty at first, it also opens up an avenue for positive changes and increased collaboration among remote teams.

Now that you have adopted remote work policies and a remote workforce in place, how can you effectively communicate and collaborate with them especially during a crisis? Some challenges that remote work poses include time zones, technological differences, cultural differences, and language barriers, among others.

Apart from these unique threats, you also have all these common struggles associated with remote work to overcome:

Struggles of Remote Work - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: State of Remote Report, 2019

Managing a remote team is becoming the need of the hour. As a leader, it is your responsibility to set up the path for your team’s success. And these digital tools can significantly improve your remote work processes and help you stay on top of things while operating from your home office, a coworking space, or anywhere else in the world.

Slack - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Slack

For Quick Messaging and Chatting – Slack

Slack is a messaging remote work tool that helps in team communication, allowing you and your team to exchange ideas and give comments in real time. It has great team management features for planning, running projects, assigning teams, as well as playing games and activities. It is also an efficient platform for company-wide announcements and is available for both iOS and Android to give you complete functionality.

Other Best Features:

  • Different channels for multiple teams and projects
  • File sharing
  • Archived messages with a search feature
  • Third-party app integrations
  • Voice and video calls

Alternatives:

  • Google Hangout
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Skype
  • Flock
  • Wire
  • Mattermost

Zoom - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Zoom

For Video Conferencing – Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing and communication tool designed for remote teams, virtual business conferences, webinars, virtual meetings, and other corporate purposes. Many business leaders regard Zoom as one of the best remote collaboration tools because it replicates face-to-face interactions and in-office meetings. You can see how your team reacts to a suggestion or an idea. You can even share your screen with other team members for a collaborative discussion when you are presenting. This is an effective feature especially if you are teaching someone how to use a new app or you want to display a document for the team. If you are a digital product seller, you can easily show them a demo without having to guess their genuine reactions. No wonder Zoom is one of the top market winners during this COVID-19 crisis.

Other Best Features:

  • Join as a view-only attendee
  • Built-in security measures like password protection
  • Instant or scheduled meeting setups
  • Fullscreen and gallery view
  • Voice sharing

Alternatives:

  • Google Hangouts Meet
  • join.me
  • Cisco Webex Meetings
  • GoToMeeting
  • BlueJeans

Toggl - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Toggl

For Time Management – Toggl

Toggl is an easy-to-use time tracking app that can give you an overview of time spent on various tasks. It was designed to accurately track how long it takes to accomplish a project and was originally intended for freelancers to ensure accurate invoicing and fair payments. The app’s data visualizations can help you compare profits against time spent on tasks and labor costs, allowing you to see which projects and clients are most profitable. Toggl is web-based but also offers native apps for desktop, iOS, and Android that sync together in real time. Furthermore, the app can be used both online and offline for continued productivity.

Other Best Features:

  • Charts
  • Day-by-day breakdown
  • Full reports
  • One-click time tracking
  • Reports sharing

Alternatives:

  • DeskTime
  • Everhour
  • Paymo
  • FreshBooks
  • RescueTime
  • Hubstaff

ProofHub - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: ProofHub

For Project Management – ProofHub

ProofHub is an all-in-one project management app that offers a replacement for conventional emailing and a bunch of other tools, integrating multiple features under one roof. By using this app, projects can be accomplished faster with proper utilization of allocated resources, not to mention easier scheduling and tracking of tasks for an effective remote team collaboration. Creating projects, communicating with teams and clients from around the globe, as well as delivering outputs on time and keeping things organized can now all run smoothly with the help of ProofHub.

Other Best Features:

  • Online chat
  • Multilingual
  • Gantt charts
  • Project templates
  • Activity logs
  • Request forms

Alternatives:

  • Trello
  • Google Sheets/Excel
  • Basecamp
  • Asana

Google Drive - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: PCMag

For Cloud Storage and File Sharing – Google Drive

Imagine your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and even images and videos in one convenient location that is accessible to your remote team—that is Google Drive for you. With this digital tool, your team members can also collaborate on a particular document, leave comments, and make real-time changes. You can grant other people access to certain files and allow them to view or make edits as you wish. Moreover, Google Drive comes with a free 15g storage space.

Other Best Features:

  • Convert PDF files to Docs
  • Scan documents
  • Filter searches
  • One-tap phone backup
  • Set up offline access

Alternatives:

  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  • pCloud
  • Sync
  • Canto

Zapier - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Zapier

For Workflow Automation – Zapier

Simply put, Zapier can automate almost any type of business process. This workflow automation software has the ability to share data with and connect to over 1,000 web apps such as Facebook, Google Drive, and Slack, among others. Just build a workflow in their editor, select the apps you want to integrate into your workflow, and then design it. Zapier lets you create what they call “Zaps,” which allow you to build entire workflows using over 500 integrations from document sharing and social media to project management and email marketing.

Other Best Features:

  • Connect over 1,500 apps
  • User-friendly workflow editor
  • Multi-step workflows and conditioning logic
  • Collaboration tools for teams and organizations

Alternatives:

  • Automate
  • Zoho Creator
  • Microsoft Flow
  • Integrify
  • KiSSFLOW

Dashlane - 7 Best Digital Tools to Keep Your Remote Team Connected - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Dashlane

For Password Management – Dashlane

Having several passwords can be challenging, but a structured and secure password management tool will bear the burden for you. With just a few clicks, Dashlane can remember your login details. It is encrypted and easy to use especially for first-time users. This tool also has the capability to store logins for up to 50 accounts in a secure vault with multi-factor authentication. Should you opt for Dashlane’s premium service, you can monitor the dark web for data breaches and receive personalized alerts if any of your personal information appears in stolen data.

Other Best Features:

  • Easy syncing between devices
  • Includes VPN
  • Secure document storage
  • Extension that supports Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

Alternatives:

  • LastPass
  • Keeper Password Manager
  • RoboForm
  • True Key
  • Enpass

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of businesses to enable remote work. This work arrangement can be challenging, especially when it is sudden and uncalled for. But with the right digital tools in place, you can maximize productivity and establish collaborative workflows among your team members, wherever they may be in the world.