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How to reopen your office safely

A woman putting on hand sanitizer at her desk.

Some offices around the country have received the green light to reopen after a prolonged, coronavirus-induced closure. But preventing the spread of COVID-19 is still an important concern.

There are ways for employers and their workers to help ensure a safer reopening. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home. If you don't currently offer sick leave, consider drafting a nonpunitive emergency sick leave policy. This will make it easier for a worker to choose to stay home.
  • Talk to workers about their concerns. Some may be at higher risk for illness. This would include older workers and those with chronic medical conditions. It might be a good idea to move them to jobs that require less customer and co-worker contact, if possible.
  • Stress good hygiene. You may want to schedule handwashing breaks. Ask workers to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Make hand sanitizer available throughout the office. Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
  • Try to increase space between workers. This may require moving desks and marking floors to guide people to keep at least 6 feet apart.
  • Make telework an option, especially for people at high risk for illness.
  • Clean and disinfect high-contact surfaces at least once a day. Consider assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Avoid gathering for meetings or large events. Meet over Zoom or other virtual conference software.
  • Consider screening workers for fever and other symptoms when they arrive in the morning. Send anyone who is sick home or to their doctor.
  • If a worker gets sick on the job, send them home right away. If COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, close off their work area. Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting that area, or, if 24 hours isn't feasible, wait as long as possible. This will help limit other workers being exposed to germs. During this waiting period, open windows and outside doors to increase air flow in the area.

For more information on how to plan and respond to COVID-19 at work, check out CDC's advice for businesses and the workplace.

Reviewed 9/8/2020

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