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Reopening: Guidance for General Office Settings American Industrial Hygiene Association® (AIHA®)

Companies across all industries and sectors have been affected to some extent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were deemed “non-essential” in the United States (U.S.) by state and federal governments, resulting in employers halting operations and closing workplaces. The reopening of office workplaces should be conducted in a thorough manner accounting for several factors before employees are allowed to return. Employers in office settings should
not only address preparing the workplace for operations to occur during a pandemic (e.g., enhanced disinfection measures), but also the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of the workspace. For such businesses with indoor workplaces, IEQ is a concern for buildings that have been unoccupied and/or dormant for extended periods. Employers should also consider the comfort of employees as they return to work because they may be in a heightened state of concern. Putting in place thoughtful measures to ensure employees are well-positioned to transition back to work with minimal disruption is important. With restrictions beginning to lift, employers are challenged with difficult questions pertaining to preparing the office to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during operations and addressing IEQ concerns before reopening, such as:
• How can I prepare my employees for the heightened policy and guidelines now in place?
• How can I help alleviate stress and concern for employees while at work?
• What should I do to ensure that I am reducing the risk of transmission in common areas?
• How do I address items frequently used by employees (e.g., vending machines, coffee makers, ice machines, etc.)?
• Should I inspect the entire workplace before reopening?
• Should I run my HVAC system for a specific time period prior to reopening?
• How should I investigate odors?
• Should I wait after disinfecting before reopening?
Several measures can be taken to address COVID-19 and IEQ concerns before the workplace is fully reopened. Common approaches to addressing COVID-19 concerns also have the capacity to address IEQ concerns. In addition, IEQ concerns might
also develop as operations resume. Therefore, preventative measures can be implemented to address issues that may arise from increased cleaning activities to address COVID-19 concerns. Lastly, all of this can be completed in a manner that allows for critical operations to be performed and reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in the workplace. This document offers practical guidance for employer and employee led actions and in an office setting. It aims to address the key questions above by providing tips for 1) workplace preparation, 2) workforce management and 3) employee readiness.

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