No! Not the Coffee machine – what does a COVID safe office look like for a small business?

Recently I have read quite a few articles on changing office environments to make them COVID safe but none of them seemed to apply to us as a small business located in an old building. Many examples were based on large corporations with modern offices where automated this and that could be fitted. What about more practical solutions for small business owners? We share our experience of making our offices COVID safe.

We currently employ 18 staff and although all worked from home during lockdown we wanted to use the opportunity to get the office ready for their return. Although, at this time we still don’t know when that will be.

We first carried out a safety audit of the building. This identified the main shared touch points. A cleaning regime was put in place to ensure all shared touch points were cleaned regularly but we felt this wasn’t go to be enough to reassure staff of a safe return. So we took the main areas of concern; doors, WCs and the kitchen and looked at these in more detail. 

We controlled access into the building to one point only. We fitted the door with a standard self-closer to reduce contact. We had to allow for our reception being unmanned so it also allowed the door to be kept off the latch therefore further reducing contact. We fitted new pull handles and push plates with Purehold antibacterial covers.  This mean the door could be open and closed safely. Inside the door we fitted a battery operated hand sanitizer.

The WC’s posed a more demanding set of problems. We wanted a safe touch environment but without having to fit expensive automated doors, locks etc. So we fitted the doors with Purehold covers and integrated push release door handle allowing users to unlock the doors by pulling on the protected handle. A battery operated Grohe Bau Cosmopolitan E sensor tap was fitted to the sink and new paper towel dispensers fitted along with foot operated pedal bins.   

We decided to prevent staff from using the shared kitchen as we could not guarantee its safe use if staff returned in full. Refreshments are provided by a water cooler fitted with antibacterial handles. It seems harsh to steal away the much-loved coffee machine but the shared kitchen maybe one the casualties of COVID, unless manufacturers of the vending machines provide equipment with no-touch sensors or other COVID safe measures. Even the humble kettle poses many obstacles in a post COVID world!