Offices Reopening Guidelines

Offices

Guiding PrinciplesReopening ProcessesPhysical Space SetupPersonal Protection For Employees
 Cleaning and DisinfectingHealth Guidance For Employees 

Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont extended a mandatory shutdown in the state, until May 20, 2020, this included Offices

On April 30, 2020, Governor Lamont outlined a list of industries that officials in the state are looking at for re-opening on May 20, 2020. The list includes the opening of offices.

State Offices GuidelinesCity Offices Guidelines
State Offices Reopening GuidelinesCity of Stamford Offices Reopening Guidelines
  • Note: All businesses subject to these guidelines are required to self-certify prior to opening May 20th. The certification system can be accessed here.
  • If you are a business, organization, or individual with a question, concern, or comment about reopening, please fill out this form.

Guiding Principles

 

As the State of Connecticut starts opening select businesses on May 20th, the State will open at the strictest controls on business operations and societal interaction. This will include, among other measures:

  • Capacity limit of 50% occupancy of the area for businesses that reopen.
  • Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols in all settings.
  • Those who can work from home should continue to do so
  • Those in high-risk groups (comorbidities) and over the age of 65 should continue to stay safe and stay home.
  • Facemasks should continue to be worn in public at all times.
  • Social gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 5 people.

While these rules provide a way for offices to reopen in as safe a manner as possible, risks to employees cannot be fully mitigated. Employees who choose or are instructed to return to their offices during this time should be fully aware of potential risks. Individuals over the age of 65 or with other health conditions should not visit offices, but instead continue to stay home and stay safe.

These rules are intended to help offices, including non-essential business in office buildings safely get back to work. Businesses should take these rules as the minimum baseline of precautions needed to protect public health in Connecticut. The City of Stamford’s Reopen Stamford Advisory Working Groups has included additional guidance to help with the opening process. Individual businesses should also take additional measures as recommended by industry guidelines or by common sense applied to their particular situation. We urge employees to stay vigilant and pay attention as to whether their offices are faithfully implementing these rules.

It is important that these rules and guidance may be updated as the State progresses  through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following pyramid highlights important steps in mitigating the risk of increased COVID-19 cases. Executed effectively, they can foster the return of consumer confidence when dining out.

 

Reopening Pyramid

Reopening Processes

 

Each Office Building and Business, including both businesses that are located in an office building that were deemed “Essential” and “Non-Essential”

DEFINITIONS:

 

Occupancy - as defined by the 2018 Connecticut State Fire Prevention Code

Professional Office - Principal Use: An office of recognized professions such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, engineers, real estate brokers, artists, musicians, designers, teachers and others, who through teaching are qualified to perform services of a professional nature and whose principal use is predominantly that of the profession in which such individual is engaged.

Office Use -  A structure used primarily for the conduct of business relating to administration, clerical services, consulting, and other client services not related to retail sales. Office buildings can hold single or multiple firms.

Essential business - Business as defined by Governor’s issued Executive Order 7H, where the order authorized the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”) to provide legally binding guidance about which businesses are essential. 

State Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening:

 
  • Encourage employees to continue to work from home where possible, and put in appropriate measures to facilitate this where possible.
  • Share these rules with your employees and inform them of any additional specific measures being taken in response to COVID-19.
  • Appoint a program administrator who is accountable for implementing these rules.
  • Stagger shift start/stop times and break times to minimize contact across employees
  • Maintain a log of employees on premise over time, to support contact tracing.
  • Limit visitors and service providers on-site; shipping and deliveries must be completed in designated areas.
  • Institute a training program and ensure employee participation in the program prior to reopen.
  • Training shall include:
    • State rules on reopening offices
    • Protocols on how to clean and use cleaning products (including disinfectants) safely.
    • Property train your staff on how to property wash their hands, wear face coverings, and how to remain socially distant while in the office
    • Go over pertinent COVID-19 considerations from CDC with employees
    • If any on-site duties are subcontracted, it is the employer's responsibility to ensure subcontractors are also appropriately trained.
    • The training shall be provided at no cost to the employee and during working hours.
    • The training materials shall be presented in the language and at the literacy level of the employees. There shall also be weekly refreshers on policies.
  • Complete a thorough cleaning of facility prior to reopening, including, but not limited to:
    • Entrances/lobbies, bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, elevators, door handles/door knobs, shared equipment (e.g., printers, scanners, phones, vending machines), desks, chairs, computers, monitors
  • Develop cleaning checklists that incorporate these rules. Ensure it is clear which employees are responsible for implementing the plans.
  • Complete the self-certification on the DECD website to receive a Reopen CT badge.

City of Stamford Guidelines

 
  • Re-engagement of employees: Individual staff responses to working remotely during the shutdown have been varied and unique to everyone’s own circumstances. Understanding employees’ attitudes and perspectives will help inform you in the creation of strategies that enable their successful return to work. Consider doing a brief survey of their experiences during the shut-down, what they liked and did not like about working remotely, what stresses that they had, lack of resources, etc.
  • Early and consistent communication: As your firm develops its reopening plan, keep your staff informed as soon as appropriate.
  • Determine what staff are essential to have in the office, and which perform better while physically in the office.
  • Development of special considerations for employees and/or their family members that fall into at-risk groups (comorbidities) including:  Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, COPD, asthma, renal disease, cancer, dementia, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
  • Exceptions and processes for parents/caregivers when schools are closed, or other caregivers are unavailable.
  • Gradually increase your office staff, do not call all employees back all at once. It may be beneficial to stagger work schedules, so different groups of employees come into the office on different days of the week.
  • Carpooling or sharing rides to work should be discouraged. If carpooling must occur, physical distancing should be maintained as much as possible, including having people sit in the backseat.
  • Employee work safety policy and guidelines for the prevention of virus transfer. Employee screening policies could include:
    • Health screening to clear employees before returning to work.
    • Employee must immediately report symptoms associated with COVID-19 exposure.
    • Employee must report contact with any person who tests positive for COVID-19 (via household contact or proximity within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case).
    • Employee testing positive for COVID-19 quarantined for 14 days prior to the health screen and return to work.
    • Regular body temperature scans performed for on-site employees (contingent on availability of scanning devices) or self-administered and reported by employees.

Reopening Check List

Workforce

Asset & people protection

Workstyle adaptations

‘Provide confidence it is safe to come back to work’

‘Safety, health and wellness to remain the priority’

‘Changing protocols and workspace design’

Eligibility / triage to return to work and identify priorities of re-entry

Full protection through hygiene solutions. Visible and well-trained cleaning staff will be critical

Reduced workplace density – redesign space to maintain new distancing standards

Critical activities and sites identified including site proximity analysis

Limited / controlled access to manage density

New protocols to reduce gatherings while enabling collaboration

Training and education program to prepare for return to work

Commuting plans and protocols

Provide new onsite facilities to reduce need to leave

Social and physical distancing protocols

Employee and visitor screening solutions

Enable remote working to continue

Limit sharing of equipment using technologies

Tracking and control measures

 

Provide mental health support

Healthy building measures

 

Source: JLL Research - April 2020

Physical Space Setup

 

Businesses along with their building owners and their facility managers should use their specific knowledge of their building to prepare for returning to work.

State Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening:

 
  • Post clear signage that reinforces new policies, like:
    • Social distancing protocols
    • Cleaning and disinfection protocols
    • Personal protection protocols (face masks, gloves)
    • Employees shall stay home if sick/experiencing symptoms
    • Employees and customers can report potential violations of these rules to the state hotline (211).
  • Increase ventilation rates and increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system where possible.
  • Rearrange space to maintain 6ft of distance between employees and stagger the position of desks so employees can avoid sitting opposite each other. This may require keeping some desks empty and/or marking desks that should not be used.
  • Use partitions between employees where a 6ft distance cannot be maintained, where possible.
  • Install visual social distancing markers to encourage employees to remain 6ft apart (e.g., in the lobby, in workspaces).
  • Where possible, segment the workspace into discrete zones, prevent movement between zones, and close spaces where employees congregate (e.g., individuals stay on a single floor, or single part of the office).
  • Ensure employees do not share equipment to the extent possible. If shared, clean after each use.
  • Close or remove amenities non-essential to businesses' main function, like:
    • Coat rooms – have employees bring their personal belongings to their workstation.
  • Install touchless appliances wherever possible, including:
    • Paper towel, soap dispensers, water fountains.
    • Doors: make doors no touch or have a door person during high volume times.
  • Encourage social distancing while using elevators, by:
    • Encouraging social distancing while individuals queue using visual markers.
    • Using signage displaying healthy elevator use protocols, including passenger limits and safe distances in the carriage.
    • Using elevator attendants to manage flow and discourage over-crowding.
    • Using floor markers that establish distancing zones and describe where to stand
    • Encourage alternatives, such as stairs, where possible.

City of Stamford Guidelines

 
  • Keep cafeterias closed and encourage staff to bring their own lunch. If a cafeteria is open, all meals should be packaged for take and go with contactless payment options
  • Close any unnecessary congregating areas such as break rooms, and encourage staff to eat at their desks
  • Identify High/Medium and Low risk locations within office spaces
  • How many people will be allowed in an elevator at one time? Place markers on the floor to promote distancing.
  • Strategic placement of approved hand sanitizers for employees and visitors in communal spaces and touch points. If hand sanitizer is not available, encourage employees and visitors to frequently wash hands with soap and water.
  • How will you clean conference room space between meetings?
  • Cleaning specifications: If you need additional cleaning services in your suite, how will those be provided?

 

Desk Image

Personal Protection for Employees

State Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening:

 
  • EMPLOYERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING PERSONAL PROTECTION TO THEIR EMPLOYEES
  • Estimate required personal protection for employees and begin procuring.
  • All employees are required to wear a face mask or other cloth face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to medical conditions.
  • Employees may utilize their own cloth face covering over that provided by their employer if they choose.
  • Gloves and eye protection are required when using cleaning chemicals.
  • In workplace settings where employees are working alone in segregated spaces (e.g., cubicles with walls, private offices, etc.), employees may remove their masks.
  • Workers shall wear a mask or face covering from the time they enter the building until the time they arrive at their cubicle/workstation, and at any time they are leaving their work station and moving around common areas (e.g., in hallways and stairwells, going to the restroom or break room, etc.).
  • For employees working in congregate settings (e.g., areas open to the public, shared offices, or similar settings), those workers shall wear a face covering as above, as well as when they are at their work station.
  • Customers and visitors are required to bring and wear masks or cloth face coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to a medical condition.
  • If the customer or visitor does not have a mask or face covering, then they either must be provided one by the site employer or not allowed to enter the facility.
  • If businesses do not have adequate personal protection, they cannot open.

City of Stamford Guidance

 
  • Determine whether PPE should be offered to office workers and available in enough quantity for workplaces that reopen.
  • Following CDC guidance and conduct a workflow audit:
    • Determine if facial coverings will be encouraged to be worn by individuals when they are interacting with, or in the presence of, coworkers or the public.
    • Determine whether all employees should be encouraged to remain at least six feet apart while in office or business settings and wear protective face coverings such as masks (cloth or N95) as much as possible. Wearing a face covering or mask is not a substitute, but rather an additive protection, if social distancing is compromised.
    • Determine any exceptions for employees wearing face coverings (contingent on availability) especially those with respiratory conditions.
    • Follow CDC guidance on whether gloves should be worn by those handling edible products or, in certain circumstances, by those interacting with the public and how often gloves need to be changed frequently and when contaminated.
  • Temporary workers, guests, and visitor policies:
    • Limiting access to certain categories of visitors such as vendors, contractors, and groups
    • Limiting the maximum number of visitors into the office at one time.
    • Restricting the general public’s access to the worksite
    • Restricting access to only certain workplace areas
    • In the event a subset of the full-time workforce becomes unavailable, including policies and practices around accepting and training temporary workers
  • Enable social distancing in spaces the public can enter such as a lobby, reception, or waiting area.
  • Cut down the number of chairs available in public spaces and spread the remaining out.
  • If there's a place where people typically wait in line, provide tape markers indicating how far apart they should space themselves.
  • The team members who work with the public should wear a mask and gloves (provided by your company) and wipe down door handles, pens, chairs, and any other high-touch areas often.

Cleaning and Disinfecting


State Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening:

 
  • Hand sanitizer shall be made available at entrance points and common areas, where possible.
  • Ensure employees wash their hands routinely using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Bathrooms should be clean and disinfect frequently, implement use of cleaning log for tracking and cleaned multiple times a day and hourly during busy times.
  • Develop cleaning checklists that incorporate these rules. Ensure it is clear which employees are responsible for implementing the plans.
  • Make available cleaning, disinfectant products, and or disposable disinfectant wipes near commonly used surfaces, where possible, like:
  • Desks, Chairs, Bathrooms, Elevators, Coffee machines, Shared equipment (e.g., printers, scanners, phones, monitors)
  • Businesses shall follow federal guidelines (CDC, EPA) on what specific products should be used and how:
    • Use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 and that are appropriate for the surface. Prior to wiping the surface, allow the disinfectant to sit for the necessary contact time recommended by the manufacturer. Train staff on proper cleaning procedures to ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
    • Disinfectants are irritants and sensitizers, and should be used cautiously. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects after each use.
    • Clean and disinfect common areas, high transit areas, and frequently touched surfaces on an ongoing basis (at least daily) and more frequently if used more often. Clean and disinfect shared objects after each use.
    • Examples include: desks, chairs, bathrooms, elevators, coffee machines, entrances/lobbies, kitchens, hallways, elevators, including panels and buttons, door handles/ door knobs, shared equipment (e.g., printers, scanners, phones, vending machines) computer and monitors.

City of Stamford Guidance 

 
  • Work with your building management, property manager or maintenance company to determine a comprehensive cleaning routine that will help protect all employees.
  • Be sure to inform all staff of the cleaning plan ahead of time, so they are aware of the steps your building or company is taking to keep them safe.
  • Stock up on essential supplies including disinfectant sprays, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, soap, face masks, hand sanitizer.
  • Reduce common touch points by opening internal doors where possible. Secure all secondary doors and access points to minimize incidental contact.
  • Place posters that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Each business or facility will have different surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by multiple people. Appropriately disinfect these surfaces and objects.
  • Employees should clean their personal workspace at the beginning and the end of every shift.
  • Encourage employees to be proactive in disinfecting shared spaces when they are finished using them. You can disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects using a product from EPA’s list of approved products that are effective against COVID-19.
    • Common shared spaces  and of frequently touched surfaces including:
      • Conference rooms
      • Telephone/isolation booths
      • Copy machine area
      • Tables
      • Doorknobs
      • Light switches
      • Countertop
  • If a sick employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

Health Guidance For Employees 

 

State Sector Rules for May 20th Reopening:

 
  • Ask employees resuming on-premise work to confirm they have not experienced COVID-19 CDC-defined symptoms and to monitor their own symptoms; including cough, shortness of breath, or any two of the following symptoms:
    • Fever, Chills, Repeated shaking with chills, Muscle pain, Headache, Sore throat, New loss of taste or smell
    • Employees should stay home if sick.
    • In the event of a positive COVID-19 case employees shall inform their employers and follow state testing and contact tracing protocols
    • Employers shall adhere to federal guidance pertaining to paid leave for employees and provide this guidance to employees.
    • Employers shall post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Department of Labor poster. The poster can be accessed at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/posters

City of Stamford Guidance

 
  • For staff that must return to the office, private offices, cubicles, and assigned desks are safer than common areas and shared workspaces.
  • If you do not have private offices or cubicles for everyone, spread workspaces out as much as possible and let all employees know they are responsible for cleaning their space regularly.
  • Plan for the future by expanding your office space and investing in private offices and cubical for all staff.
  • Prohibit the use of, or limit the capacity of shared spaces, if possible.
  • Eliminate all non-essential workplace travel.
  • Distribute summaries of health insurance processes and procedures to employees.
  • Ensure that all employees that do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures by communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed here effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees.
  • In-person meetings should be avoided as much as possible. Teleconferencing may be used by site-essential staff, provided they are dialing in from separate areas. Where In person meetings occur, they should be limited to a maximum of five people, each attendee should have a mask covering their mouth and nose at all times, and a distance of six feet should be maintained.
  • Workplaces with Multiple Shifts:
    • Where ever possible, utilize nights and weekends to spread out work schedules and provide for social distancing.
    • If possible, move from 1 or 2 shifts to 3 shifts. Keep each shift with the same people each day. That way, if a person on one shift becomes sick, workers on the other shifts are protected. This arrangement can also work by having one crew work for part of the week and one crew for the other part of the week. This may also accommodate shifting child care schedules.
    • Provide time where possible between each work shift to minimize overlap and allow for cleaning of the work environment at regular and appropriate intervals.
    • Stagger shift start/stop times, break times, and lunchtimes to minimize congregations at the time clocks or break areas.

Other Links on Returning to Work:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Brookings: How Cities Can Reopen after COVID-19

McKinsey: Implications and Business Restart Considerations

U.S. Chamber on Implementing National Return to Work Concept

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID 19

10 Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus, OSHA Poster