office guidelines toronto

Here's what offices in Toronto might be like when it's safe to go back to work

The physical office in Toronto and all the watercooler chitchat, work functions, in-person meetings and politics that come with it are currently undergoing a complete overhaul amid the pandemic.

As businesses begin to reopen around the city, public health officials have released a guide for employers, workplaces and businesses that's meant to ensure safety and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Workplaces and businesses deemed essential are already familiar with many of the recommended measures, such as installing Plexiglas screens, signage, temperature checks, having hand sanitizer readily available and frequent handwashing.

But that new guide also recommends "that all staff complete a health screening questionnaire before each work shift."

"The questions can be completed on a paper-based questionnaire; can be asked directly to employees and answers recorded; or can be completed electronically," it says.

It suggests offering remote work options where available and staggering shifts and offering flexible work hours and schedules.

"Employees should keep two metres/six feet from other staff and customers as much as possible," it says. "Discourage employees from congregating. Ensure staff maintain physical distancing while in lunch rooms and meeting rooms."

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and high-touch areas and objects regularly, removing furniture to allow for physical distancing and establishing policies that will help companies navigate the pandemic are also recommended.

Federal health officials recently recommended that Canadians wear non-medical face masks. Likewise, the guide suggests employees do the same wherever physical distancing is difficult or impossible.

The structure of the physical workplace may have already vanished for some companies like Shopify, which announced it will be closing its Toronto office while its workforce remains remote until at least 2021.

The idea of a four-day work week has also been proposed as a way to manage the increase of people returning to work.

As part of Stage 1 of reopening Ontario's economy, health officials recommend that only workplaces and businesses able to accommodate these guidelines be permitted to reopen.

As a result, some public-facing businesses and workplaces have chosen to remain closed to customers for in-store shopping, instead offering curbside pickup and delivery only.

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