Is a safe return to the workplace possible? Following on from a recent HSE report, Niamh O’Beirne, the national lead for testing and tracing in the Irish healthcare system had advised that returning to the workplace can facilitate outbreaks of the COVID Delta Variant. In a recent survey, workplace outbreaks accounted for 35.1 percent of recent clusters of Covid positive patients.
Currently there exists a real risk that staff will be asked to return to work before our corporate infrastructure has been put in place to keep them safe. Staff who have been furloughed, or have been unable to achieve their work targets whilst working from home, and are now desperate for their full salaries, may feel that they have little recourse but to agree.
What can employers do to protect ourselves and our staff and help keep those around us safe?
While the European and American Centers for Disease Control have issued guidance for returning to work, their recommendations do not go far enough to protect those at risk.
Employers have a duty of care for all employees under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and must give due consideration if it is safe to ask employees return to their workplace. It is imperative that an appropriate Risk Assessment is conducted to ensure that management makes an informed decision and that no employee’s safety is put at risk unnecessarily.
Protocols should be developed by all employers to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary.
The provision of personal protective equipment, sanitising materials and technologically available solutions should be given serious consideration by all employers when asking staff to resume their office based employment.
These solutions include software which can determine social distancing rules for the office, and can also establish limits on the overall number of staff allowed in to the office at any one time, in tandem with managing hot desking supports. See below for more.
Employers need to be pro-active in supporting their staff in returning to the workplace safely by:
- Clear policies detailing what to do in the event that a staff member is sick with a fever or cough. These should clearly outline, no matter whether officially testing and diagnosing COVID-19 has occurred, that the staff member does not return to the workplace until at least 14 days since the onset of symptoms and, ideally, up to 16 days. Work should be done remotely from quarantine (where possible) to protect the health of all employees.
- All staff returning to work should wear protective face coverings
- All staff to observe social distancing, e. keeping a safe distance from other colleagues
- Limiting the number of employees in the office at any one time using specifically tailored technological solutions e.g. Ronspot
- Protocols to be discussed and implemented where any common areas used in the office, are immediately wiped down after individual staff touch them
- A policy communicated by management detailing what to do if an employee is not sick but someone in their household is showing signs of COVID-19. This should specify that the staff member does not go into work until their entire household has recovered. COVID-19 is highly infectious and everyone who has had significant exposure to someone with the infection, e.g. in a home environment, needs to quarantine for the full 14 days.
- Limiting foot traffic around work spaces
- Use plexiglass dividers between tables, and/or other barriers to ensure a minimum distance between all coworkers.
Employees and employers alike are all eager to return to normal, or at least a new normal. But our sense of urgency to restart our economy should not eclipse our sense of duty to our staff, our families and those around us who continue to be at grave risk.
By using all available resources particularly those that have evolved as a response to the pandemic, as employers, we can safely mitigate the risks posed by the pandemic to ensure a safe return to our offices.
Safe Workplace Management Systems
Software and solutions have been developed to allow for safe return to the workplace. These solutions are also known as Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). For a deeper look at IWMS, read our recent blog post here.
Ronspot is an IWMS that can help with the safe return of employees to the workplace. With a range of built-in features, Ronspot is developed to aid administrators and keep employees safe. There are currently two key elements of Ronspot. The parking reservation system and the desk booking system. There is a meeting room booking system that is currently under development. Once complete, it will be another complete feature of the Ronspot system.
For now, both the parking reservation system and the desk booking system are built with both employees and admins in mind. The system is designed to keep employees safe on site through social distancing and limiting numbers. Whilst administrators can set the social distancing rules and generate cleaning reports for staff safety. The Ronspot workplace management system is simple to setup also.
Ronspot Key Features
The Ronspot system is designed with both admins and employees in mind. There are a range of features that make life easier for employees. The following features are great for a safe return to the workplace for admins and employees.
This is an essential feature for all desk booking systems in the world of flexible working. The social distancing feature is first developed upon by the administrators. Through the admin panel, admins will enter the office map. Here the admin can set the social distancing protocols. So for example, if there are a pod of 4 desks in one area, the admin will tie these four desks together through the social distancing option. This means, once one of these desks are booked, the other desks within the social distancing bubble are made unbookable.
For employees, this feature is very important, both for their safety and the safety of others. When the employee makes a booking through their mobile, the social distancing protocols will ensure that staff are only able to book desks that are correctly socially distanced. By social distancing correctly employees maintain safe practice at work.
Check-in & Check-out
The check-in and check-out function is great for confirming employees bookings. This function ensures that staff who have booked in are on site. An important feature for contact tracing and ensuring that those who are on-site are safe. This feature can be down manually through the mobile app, or through QR code scanning. Once an employee checks out, the spot is released to be booked again. Having staff check-in and check-out also ensures that companies can limit the number of staff onsite.
Ronspot can ensure that companies successfully maintain limited occupancy in the office. Ronspot can give employees credits to make bookings. These credits are used to make bookings on the app. Giving employees a limited number of credits allows them to make a limited number of bookings. Many countries have rules in place around the occupancy allowance for the office. Ronspot can make it easy for businesses to run at 50% capacity.
This feature is very important for a safe return to the workplace. The cleaning report can be generated through the analytics tab on the admin panel. This report is generated to show the cleaning staff which spots were used in each zone. Cleaning staff can save time by cleaning all used spaces in the report. To make sure staff make a safe return to the workplace, correct sanitization is key.
For a better look at Ronspot as an IWMS read more here. To find out more about the Ronspot system as a whole, take a look at some more features.
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