As vaccinations ramp up and we slowly rise from this pandemic, there are many unknowns ahead. If we follow the original 21 days period between the stages, the Province of Ontario should enter Stage 3 of reopening on July 21. And as businesses reopen, we expect more employees returning to their offices whether part-time or full-time. To facilitate this transition for employers, the Toronto Regional Board of Trade (TRBOT) has launched a campaign called “We’re Ready Toronto”.
So far, three handbooks were released, as a part of the project’s pilot phase, covering the area of the Financial District, Pearson Employment Area and the Scarborough Centre. TRBOT has partnered with MaRS, Public Health experts as well as building owners, employers, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario to create a coherent guide with leading practices to ensure a safe and sustainable return to work.
The guide aims to help businesses and building owners implement the right policies to screen and trace employees and visitors who come in contact with an infected person. It also recommends how to support employees in isolation. We learned that as an airborne virus, COVID-19 spreads primarily through the air, so we are pleased to see an emphasis on airflow in the building. TRBOT mentions the use of HVAC filters, the importance of fresh air and regulated humidity. Another thing that could strengthen employee’s confidence in a safe return to the office is to monitor and make public indoor air quality data.
To reduce the direct spread of the virus among individuals, the handbook recommends putting up clear messaging and guides to help with physical distancing. It also encourages businesses to provide face masks. Another important measure mentioned for keeping your business safe is to configure the indoor space, including workstations, so the employees and visitors can maintain a safe distance. For workstations where this is not possible, or for client-oriented areas, TRBOT recommends the use of barriers such as plexiglass.
The handbook also encourages businesses to communicate information regarding public transit, as it is a popular form of transit among employees working in the city. Employees should be aware that they can plan safe commutes using apps partnered with TTC that are providing real-time reports on crowdedness (Transit and RocketMan) or Google Maps that predict based on passenger data. As people choose safer (and healthier) ways to travel, the use of bicycles has increased. And when employees return to the office, the handbook encourages businesses to be prepared to accommodate commuters with convenient and safe storage options for their bikes.
The “We’re Ready Toronto” campaign also gives small- and medium-sized businesses (fewer than 150 employees) the option to obtain a free rapid test kit. The kit allows testing all employees twice a week for four weeks. If your business has more than 150 employees, you can order the tests directly from the Ontario government.
To access the handbooks and order free rapid-testing kits, go to Ready For You – COVID-19 Support and Resources for Businesses (bot.com).