27 measures to get your workplace ready for your employees at the end of the COVID lockdown

🔃 Updated on May 6th — 7PM

May 11 should mark the progressive and controlled lockdown exit plan in France. But even though people might be allowed to go back to work, that doesn’t mean that they’re out of danger. As a matter of fact, many companies will be keeping their offices closed and expect their employees to work remotely through at least September.

However, companies that are planning a return of their teams at the workplace have the responsibility to ensure their health and safety through meticulous measures that you’ll find below. Don’t forget to associate to the plan the CSE and labor doctor.

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Please note that none of the provisions below is effective by itself; it’s imperative to observe all of the guidelines to help achieve a satisfactory overall level of protection against the virus. What’s more, every workplace is different — these guidelines should not be used as a one-size-fits-all approach to managing COVID-19 in the workplace.

STEP 1: Before reopening your offices

First of all, it’s crucial that you update your “Document unique des risques” with Covid risk but also with psychosocial risks (isolation, workload, fear of being contaminated) and explain your risk mitigation plan. It may appear as a very administrative task, but if there’s an issue, this is the 1st thing Labor Inspection will control. Here’s a template that can come in handy.

Also, if your organization is leasing office space within a building, you should check with the building’s management what safety protocols are implemented for tenants and whether it’s required that tenants set up any additional safety measures. Companies in shared spaces might need to coordinate with other companies that use the same space to guarantee consistent approaches.

Measures involving your employees

  1. Survey your employees to anticipate the reopening and collect as much information as possible to be able to meet their needs (do they have children to take care of? Will they be using public transportation?…).

💡 Tip: here’s an example of a survey that might help (feel free to adapt it to your company)

2. Consider appointing a COVID-19 control plan coordinator; it can be the HR manager or a member of the management team. In any case, it might be necessary to hold someone accountable for the hygiene plan. This person can also be responsible for keeping track of updates on COVID-19 from public authorities and making this information available to employees. Managers must also be mobilized to pass on the information to their teams regarding the new rules in the office.

3. Prepare a remote work policy for those who can manage their duties remotely, especially if some of them express concern in attending the office. As Prime Minister Édouard Philippe stated in his press conference on April 19 “telecommuting should be maintained to the extent possible”; he insisted on it again on April 28People who can work from home will still be expected to do so for at least 3 more weeks.

⚠️ Important: Consider keeping away from the workplace certain employees who are at higher risk for illness (people with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women, for instance).

💡 Tip 1: if you need inspiration in terms of remote work guide, check out Gitlab’s. At Serena, we also covered the topic here.

💡 Tip 2: you can use survey tools like Office Vibe or Jubiwee to monitor your team members' well-being while they’re working remotely.

4. As the government stated, a 4m2 minimum space must be ensured for each person; thus, an office that has, for instance, a 160 m² surface will only be able to welcome simultaneously 40 people ( 160/4 ). So to the extent possible, consider initiating a gradual return to work and rotating the staff to reduce the number of people who need to be present at the workplace (the higher the number, the higher the risk). To do so, you can implement a team-based daily or weekly rotation system in which certain teams are in the office while other teams work remotely.

💡 Tip 1: Some of our portfolio companies will let employees decide if they want to go back to the workplace or to keep working remotely. It will be up to them. However, the priority will be given to those whose remote work conditions are not ideal (small studio, poor wireless connection…).

💡 Tip 2: For others, the idea is to mix all of the teams and to allow two persons from each team at the office to foster team interactions.

💡 Tip 3: Another possibility is to allocate different time slots for employees; some of them can be invited to come later in the day for instance.

5. Arrange for some alternative transportation plans (bikes, scooters..) if your employees are reluctant to public transportation.

💡 Tip: You can consider some services like Veligo.

Measures for your workplace

  1. Prepare a thorough and frequent cleaning plan of the workspace and of the work equipment, doorknobs, handrail, buttons, material, coffee machines, photocopiers (…), and generally all surfaces that could be infected with the virus and that are handled by employees. Appropriate products, more precisely, surfactants, must be used for the cleaning.

Here’s what the government recommends regarding the frequency of the cleaning:

Source: the Government’s national protocol
credit- government’s leaflet — April 3

💡 Tip: Cleany is a service you might need; they have several offers: they can spread gases and virucide products (1,5€ /m2) once a week, clean the offices on a daily basis (28€ /1H) with special products and focus on doorknobs, keyboards…The teams wear masks, respect social distancing, have instructions to wash their hands at least every hour….

2. Open spaces have to be re-organized:

  • Ensure that there will be a one-meter distance minimum between every desk by emptying one desk between each employee for instance. As the government clarified on May 3, each employee must be given a 4 m2 space minimum.
  • If necessary, arrange separation between each desk with plexiglass barriers that must be cleaned twice a day (upon arrival and at the end of the day); the barriers should have a sufficient height; otherwise, you can elevate them.
  • In order to avoid leaving handbags and objects at the foot of the desk, think of some special spaces for them (for instance, an individual locker).
  • Post all safety instructions in the workspaces

3. Set up rules and sanitary equipment in break rooms and in the lunchroom:

  • Provide individual bottles or glasses of water.
  • Increase break times (to allow employees to clean their hands) and plan rotations.
  • Schedule separated lunchtime breaks and ensure that the one-meter distance is respected around the table; also, you need to determine the number of people than can have lunch at the same time and provide the chairs accordingly, with signals on the floor to mark the chair’s position (that’s why you should avoid chairs on wheels so social distancing is ensured).
  • Remind staff not to share glasses, cutlery, dishes
  • Clean the break room (surfaces and equipment that enter in contact with people’s hands) after each break and make sure dishes are washed with water and soap immediately after use.

4. Check on the air quality/filtering systems as well as on the frequency of maintenance and replacement of filters.

5. If social distancing is not possible, provide general protective filtering masks (aiming to protect a group in a company that doesn’t receive public) for your employees; as a reminder, masks are mandatory in public transportation and those who don’t comply will be risking a 135 euros fine.

Please note that employers are accountable as to the right use of masks; the fact that you have equipped your teams doesn’t suffice and doesn’t exonerate you of this duty. When masks are re-usable, you need to find ways to ensure their cleaning according to the appropriate process. More information here and below.

Source: the Government’s national protocol
Source: the Government’s national protocol

💡 Tip: Information on how and where you can order masks are available on the CCI Paris website.

The government advises against using gloves as they provide a false sense of security and might even be a mode of transmission of the virus.

7. Provide laptops and phones keyboards protective films that employees have to set up after cleaning their desk and equipment (headset, headphones, dust covers…); and in order for employees to clean themselves after cleaning their equipment, you need to provide them with individual wipes.

8. Consider paper placemat for employees’ desks; but at the end of the day, the paper must be thrown away in a bid to mitigate some contact-based spread of the virus on office surfaces.

9. From the arrival at the workplace to the departure, circulation rules must be set up to avoid people encountering (more information here). Employees might need to walk clockwise, so consider creating a one-way flow to minimize transmission. That’s why visual signals are important.

Source: the Government’s national protocol

For each step of the arrival and departure process, there’s a need to identify the risks of breaking the social distancing rules.

10. Mark the floor with visual signals (for instance, circle embedded in the carpeting around each desk) to make sure employees don’t get to close and have a 1-meter minimum distance between them.

💡 Tip: You can order such material from Copynews right here.

Below are some examples of visual signals for the floor.

credit-Copynews

11. Make available permanently, in all rooms, the following products: hydro-alcoholic solutions, soaps, garbage bags, cleaning wipes…

12. Remove water fountains as they can spread the virus

13. You can provide employees with questionnaires to help them quantify their risk of being affected by COVID. The company Alan, for instance, set up this questionnaire that workers can complete before coming to work.

14. Prepare a communication to the whole team to explain the main actions that will be implemented to ensure a safe end of the lockdown. In your communication, remind them of the barriers measures (a poster is available at the end of the article, you can share it in your email for instance).

STEP 2: After reopening your offices

When employees are at back at the workplace, as an employer, you’re bound to implement safe work practices to limit exposure to COVID-19. This means putting in place control measures to first eliminate the risk and if this is not possible, minimize worker exposure.

  1. Inform employees of the best hygienic practices (such as washing their hands for 20 seconds, avoiding handshakes) by displaying these posters on the walls that compile the barriers measures
  2. Avoid physical meetings as well as employees coming together, and keep using the usual tools like Zoom or Google meet for gatherings.
  3. Limit the number of papers and laminate them so they can be cleaned.
  4. If an employee needs the help of a colleague at their desk, the latter must respect a one-meter distance minimum and cannot approach the screen, nor stand above the employee.
  5. Make sure barrier measures and social distancing are applied during breaks and other convivial moments.
  6. If possible, leave the doors and windows open so air can circulate between the rooms. It’s also recommended to ventilate closed rooms for 15 minutes every three hours.
  7. Since it’s advised against taking your employees’ temperature or having them tested, encourage your employees to track the symptoms and to stay home if they suspect an infection. You need to have a written playbook in case of contamination among your employees. Here’s what you should do if such a situation happens:
  • First, isolate the person in a dedicated room with a mask.
  • According to your company's organization, inform the health expert of the company, the first-aid rescue worker or the COVID-19 referent, and provide the latter with a mask before the intervention.
  • If the symptoms are not severe, contact the occupational physician or ask the employee to contact their attending physician to organize the employee’s return to home.
  • If symptoms are severe, call 15.
  • Inform employees who have been in close contact with the employee.
  • Contact the health service at work and follow the instructions. You need to clean immediately the work areas of the employee concerned and ensure the follow-up of other employees.
  • If the infection is confirmed, the follow-up will be ensured by the “contact-tracing” service.
  • Again, more generally, employees should be instructed not to attend the office if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or are otherwise unwell.

8. Make verifications regularly:

  • Follow-up of the cleaning/disinfection plan.
  • Make sure there’s a permanent and sufficient supply of cleaning products: hydro-alcoholic solutions, soaps, garbage bags, cleaning wipes, masks…
  • Dispose of the waste regularly. Detritus including used masks must be thrown in a double garbage bag that can’t be kept more than 24h in a closed space reserved for this purpose.
  • Verify that sanitary facilities are cleaned regularly at least twice a day
  • Make sure that there are soaps and drying means all the time

9. Ask your team for some feedback to collect information on how they deal with the new instructions, on how their return to the office is going, on what needs they may have, etc…

These recommendations might be completed and adjusted according to our knowledge evolution.

Additional resources:

credit — Government’s website

COVID Kakemono example:

WHO — Hygiene posters

📚Sources and additional resources:

Protocole national de déconfinement pour les entreprises pour assurer la sécurité et la santé des salariés — Ministère du Travail

Governments’ general guidelines for employers

Government’s guidelines according to the different sectors

Launchmetrics — COVID19: De-escalation Framework

LifeLab’s guide (helpful for US operations)

Syntec recommendations

Back-to-work toolkit

WHO Recommendations — Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19

Covid-19: measures to facilitate masks supplies for companies

How to make masks that are compliant with AFNOR Spec S76–001

COVID-19: preventing exposure to the virus in the workplace

Employers’ obligations during the pandemic

Viral Illness & Flu Epidemic Preparedness Checklist

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