COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for General Office Settings

Although many general office workers have transitioned to remote working arrangements in the wake of COVID-19, some employers and employees may prefer to work from their office buildings. Additionally, as restrictions ease and more information is available about how COVID-19 is spread, more office settings are likely to reopen in the coming months, depending on local governments’ guidance.

When reopening office settings, employers and building managers need to adjust operations to implement thorough cleaning and disinfection protocols. Additionally, employers must consider their employees’ comfort, who may be in a heightened state of concern.

Employers and building managers face a range of new challenges and questions when reopening offices for work, including:

  • How can we prepare my office-based team for new COVID-19 safety procedures and guidelines?
  • How do we alleviate stress for team members who are working in an office during COVID-19?
  • What are the best practices for limiting close contact of office employees, and how can we maintain social distancing in an enclosed space?
  • Does an office need to be disinfected before reopening?

With these questions in mind, AIHA has created this “Back to Work Safely: Guidance for General Office Settings Guidance Document, 2nd edition” guide to offer practical advice for how to reopen an office during COVID-19 safely. The guidance borrows from the latest advice given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as expert advice from other leading health and government organizations.

These reopening guidelines share actional steps and recommendations to protect office-based workers, including information on the following key areas:

  • What should an employer do to prepare an office for reopening?
    • The importance of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and best practices to monitor and address any IEQ concerns
    • How to arrange an office space during COVID-19, including the elimination of reception area seating and organizing workstations so that employees do not face each other
    • Ways to safely use conference rooms during COVID-19, including disinfection best practices and the maximum number of people who should attend an in-person meeting
    • Considerations for common areas like team kitchens, food courts, water coolers, or shared seating areas
    • Ventilation and other HVAC concerns related to COVID-19
    • What to do if odors are present before reopening an office, and how to find the source of an office space odor
  • What should an employer do to prepare office employees for reopening?
    • Communication best practices, including the establishment of formal and informal communication channels for employees to express concerns or raise questions
    • Consider adjusting the office business hours or limiting public access to office spaces
    • How to train employees on COVID-19 safety, including the use of PPE like face coverings
    • Proactive ways to protect employee comfort and wellbeing
  • How can office employees stay safe while working in an office during COVID-19?
    • Self-monitoring practices and the necessary PPE for office workers
    • Ways to safely use office common spaces, like a kitchen or cafeteria
    • Best practices for maintaining social distancing in an office building

Download our “Back to Work Safely: Guidance for General Office Settings Guidance Document, 2nd edition” guidance document today to safely learn how to return to work in your office building.