It’s an exciting time for thousands of Scottish businesses as we slowly start to work through the stages of lifting lockdown. Although the pandemic is still here to stay, isolation and lockdown are no longer the only options for fighting against COVID-19. With many people getting vaccinated, many businesses have started to reopen their commercial properties for business to get back on their feet and recover from financial losses.
Yet, while there are a few weeks until the majority of premises will resume trading, time is short to work on cleaning and reopening sites that have been closed for most of the last year.
For many businesses, especially smaller traders, there is much to do. From erecting social distancing barriers to deep cleaning, repairing winter damage, and changing working processes, it remains essential to ensure your premises are in perfect condition for the long-awaited reopening date. Doing so can ensure you’re prepared to run your daily operations from your premises again without compromising everyone’s safety, especially against coronavirus.
Here we’ll recap the essential steps to ensure your commercial property is ready to go.
1. Conduct COVID-19 Site-Specific Risk Assessments
The first thing to consider is how your business trades and whether you need to implement new safety controls or visitor management processes to comply with social distancing and workforce protection guidelines.
- Are you open to the public?
- Do you require a one-way system?
- Will staff require PPE?
- Can you restrict the number of people on-site at any one time?
- Is there space for social distancing?
- Do you need safety screens or face shields?
- Are any objects handled manually by multiple people?
- Is there enough hand sanitiser or cleaning stations?
- Do you need to install barriers in the office to avoid the possible spread of COVID-19?
Risk assessments are a great way of identifying the changes required. Also, it’s an excellent time to consult with your staff to see if they have suggestions, ideas or concerns that can be accommodated far more quickly now than after trading has resumed.
For example, your commercial property might need to be fitted out to comply with the COVID-19 safety rules and regulations. Whether it’s flooring or ceiling work, security system installations or upgrades, and other essential projects that make the place safe and usable again after lockdown, you may benefit from hiring fit-out services from a reliable company to handle the project for you. They can safely prepare the whole place before your commercial property accepts employees, customers, and visitors for business.
2. Review Your Working Policies
Much depends on your business’s nature and the layout of your site, but you may need to look at rotas, shift patterns, and balance some staff still working from home.
That could mean reopening some parts of your premises and leaving some vacant, rearranging desks and workspaces to ensure there is plenty of room, or restructuring working patterns to avoid having everyone on site at the same time. By adopting a work-from-home and a physical work setup, you can effectively minimise the potential risks associated with COVID-19 and avoid stopping the operations again due to transmissions.
Some steps are relatively easy to implement and could drastically reduce the risk level:
- Staggering opening times or staff arrival times.
- Limiting face-to-face interactions wherever possible.
- Using fixed teams, so staff are constantly working with the same colleagues.
- Installing screens or barriers to protect workers.
- Adding floor tape, signs or markings to remind customers and staff about appropriate distances, one-way systems and waiting areas.
Again, by communicating with staff and sharing ideas, you might be able to collaborate to find ideal solutions that ensure your business can resume regular trading in a way that prioritises the safety of your staff and customers. This can be a win-win situation because you can operate your business while keeping your workers and customers as safe as possible after the lockdown.
3. Property Maintenance and Cleaning
Finally, if your premises have been closed for several months, it is essential to schedule a deep clean and site risk assessment before your reopening date.
According to empty property experts, Clearway Scotland, multiple potential hazards and maintenance jobs arise when a property is left vacant, even if security systems have remained in place throughout:
- Heating, electricity and water should be turned on well in advance, with each appliance or piece of equipment tested. Ensure you leave enough time to book repairs where needed.
- Water pipes may contain stagnant water and must be thoroughly flushed, with the potential need for a legionella test. This is crucial if you supply food and drinks or staff use water fountains.
- Dust, dirt, cobwebs and insects are all likely to have accumulated. A comprehensive deep clean is vital, airing out the building and checking for any pest infestations that need treatment.
- If the premises have been in use during the lockdown, or you are open to potentially vulnerable customers, an anti-viral fogging treatment may be more efficient than a manual deep clean.
- Check that the security system, alarms, and sensors are all working correctly, and book in a service or repair works straight away if any problems are found.
As well as ensuring the property itself is safe to return to, it’s essential to be clear about any changes made for returning workers and customers alike.
For most businesses, that might mean client communication, such as sending out notices, putting up signs and sharing on social media how things may have changed a little since you were last open.
It’s also about ongoing processes and training staff to ensure each worker understands new policies such as hand washing, using shared equipment, and working in a static workspace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has probably significantly affected your business’s operations and finances. During the several weeks or months of lockdown, your company and employees have nothing to do except wait until the situation becomes better. But, once the lockdown is lifted, you need to make your commercial property usable and safe again.
Luckily, you will be ready and waiting for the big reopening day by prepping your premises, conducting a thorough clean and risk assessment, and consulting your teams on what changes are required.