Table of Contents

Return to Workplace Practical Guide During and Beyond COVID-19

Section OneDownload this section
Office Management


1. Handwashing

The first step for everyone is good hand washing hygiene. Research shows that the COVID-19 spreads via droplets from an infected person. Medical experts say that spending time focusing on personal hygiene such as frequent handwashing will help to reduce the risk of getting infected.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

You can make handwashing fun. Here are some catchy songs, specifically the choruses, that you can sing to ensure you are washing your hands for the adequate time:

  • “We Are Young” by Fun
  • “Love on Top” by Beyoncé
  • “No Scrubs” by TLC
  • “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
  • “Take me home, Country Road” by John Denver

This is a great opportunity to practice good hand-washing etiquette with your children. Select from this list of all-time favourite children’s songs:

  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • If You're Happy and You Know It Clap your Hands
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • The Alphabet Song

To remind yourself to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds - which is the length of time recommended by doctors - why not have a handwashing poster created for you by choosing from the list of songs available at https://washyourlyrics.com/.


2. Regular Disinfection of Common Areas

If your office has already undergone ‘deep disinfection’ because someone came into contact – however indirectly – with COVID-19, then you will be familiar, to an extreme, with workplace hygiene. Most offices are still routinely disinfecting common areas and often-touched items, such as doorknobs and lift buttons every two hours.

However, if returning to a workplace, the proximity of people within open floor plan offices, kitchens, retail stores and production lines creates ongoing risks for employees and businesses.

We recommend the following:

  • Provide enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touchpoints.
  • Provide signage with key messages related to physical distancing and hygiene throughout common areas.
  • Permanently deploy hand sanitizer stations throughout common areas.
  • Permanently deploy specialized waste disposal receptacles and signage for used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), particularly at transition points such as entries/exits, elevator bays, food courts, and washrooms.

3. The Socially-Distanced Workspace

You may find on return to work that your physical office space has been restructured, and your desk or workstation has been moved further apart.

This physical restructuring has taken place so you and your colleagues can be at work at the same time, yet still maintain a safe social distance for a little while longer, while your health department determines that the virus is contained.

Some companies may have been operating on a shift system for several months, and this may continue. Hopefully, this will not last more than a few weeks or months and life can return to – relative - near normal soon.


4. Split Team Working Arrangements

Some companies have adopted or will adopt split team working arrangements. Employees are split into two or three teams. Only one team will be allowed to work in the office at a time, alternating the schedule.

The split team working arrangement is done in order to limit the number of individuals in the office at one time and to ensure that you are able to contain the spread of disease in the event someone were to become ill.

If you operate this system, please refrain from meeting colleagues on the opposite team of yours outside of the office. If it is not feasible for you to refrain from meeting an individual from the other team outside of the office, please let your manager or HR know immediately.

If you have frequent guests (internal or external) who come to the workplace, they will also be subject to the split working arrangement.


5. Wearing Masks to Reduce Virus Spread

John Hopkins Center for Health Security - Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors – advises the use of nonsurgical masks by workers returning to their workplace. This will reduce the chance of those people transmitting the virus to their co-workers.


6. Travel and Self-Quarantine

Most companies will have rules for travel and self-isolation. Here are some of the typical rules:

  • Follow travel bans as instructed by your local government.
  • All travel (business and personal) must be disclosed via the travel declaration forms to be submitted to HR and their manager.
  • If applicable, all employees returning from any high-risk countries must adhere to a 14-day self-quarantine period before returning to the office.
  • All employees who have been in contact with any positive COVID-19 case, or who has been in contact with someone showing COVID-19 related symptoms must disclose this to their functional head and HR and adhere to a 14-day self-quarantine period before returning to the workplace.

7. Try to Keep as Much of the Workspace and Operations Familiar

When considering all the elements in this section, and as we transition to this new phase, we’d like to suggest your goal be to provide employees with experiences that are safe, convenient and, above all, FAMILIAR. If desks need to be moved around, please try to leave some areas stationary, such as gathering areas or even as simple as where the fridge is still kept. Employees will be looking for the items which have not changed, and take into their hearts those objects or processes which are already familiar to them.

8. Being a Leader, Whatever Your Job-Title

Visible leadership was vital during the outbreak in your community, and remains important in providing comfort and direction to returning employees. It does not matter what our job-title says, we can begin and continue with compassion.

As has been true throughout this pandemic, leaders exist everywhere. We can become role-models for everyone at work. For example, openly use hand sanitizer at frequent intervals; wear a mask when joining a meeting; wipe your own desk with hand sanitizer after use for example.