Returning to the workplace
As the Queensland Government eases physical and business restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, government agencies are working on their respective plans to return staff progressively and safely to the workplace. Decisions about returning to the workplace are based on health directions and advice. The government is implementing measures to support the return to the workplace by additional hygiene including additional cleaning, and providing educational material.
This guide, produced by the Queensland Government Accommodation Office (QGAO), Department of Energy and Public Works, provides advice to Queensland Government agencies about the return of their staff to the workplace.
It includes links to resources and the Queensland Health website to further assist in highlighting practices that support a safe return to the workplace.
As the health directions and advice change, QGAO will review and update this guide to support agencies to manage the transition of staff returning to the workplace for as long as necessary.
Queensland has done such a remarkable job in responding to COVID-19 that everyone can feel safe at work.
Queensland is continuing to ease restrictions as we move towards a new COVID-19 normal. For this reason, public servants who have been working from home are now encouraged to increase their presence in their usual workplace.
Unless your workplace is a restricted business (defined in the Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction), there are no COVID-19 restrictions that apply. For example, office environments are not restricted under current Public Health Directions.
For non-restricted workplaces, each individual workplace can make decisions about how to support staff to safely increase their presence in the workplace.
Whilst non-restricted workplaces are exempt from COVID-19 restrictions, it is important to remember that every workplace must continue to comply with existing workplace health and safety obligations to ensure the safety of workers and others. This includes continuing COVID-safe practices, including hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Queensland public servants are encouraged to start discussions with their employer about increasing their presence in the workplace.
COVID-safe measures are in place in Queensland public service workplaces, including:
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces.
- Ongoing provision of alcohol-based hand sanitiser and soap for handwashing
- Ongoing hygiene practices and physical distancing whenever possible
The planned return to the workplace occurs in line with the Public Service Commission framework .
All staff returning to the workplace should practice physical distancing, where possible, maintain personal and workplace hygiene, but most importantly, stay home if they show signs of illness or feel unwell.
Occupant density limits do not apply in non-restricted workplaces, including offices. For example, there are no COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people who can be in:
- tea rooms
- meeting rooms
- shared office workspaces
Agencies will need to plan for the transition of staff returning to COVID-Safe workplaces in line with guidance from the Public Service Commission.
It is important to remember that every workplace must continue to comply with existing workplace health and safety obligations to ensure the safety of workers and others. This includes continuing COVID-safe practices, including hand hygiene and physical distancing.
You should maintain physical distance whenever and wherever it is possible and reasonably practicable. Physical distancing is also referred to as social distancing.
Whilst there are no density limits on the number of people who can be in a lift at the same time, building owners can make decisions on lift capacity based on the size of the lift.
For example, most office building lifts will be able to safely accommodate up to 6 people.
Individual workplaces can also make decisions around managing attendance, using measures such as rostering and compressed hours, as appropriate.
Please continue to practice good hygiene including sneezing or coughing into your arm or a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in the bin.
On occasions, instances may arise when Queensland Health advice changes and the mandatory wearing of face masks directive is temporarily implemented.
At all other times, it is encouraged to wear a mask in any indoor or outdoor space when physical distancing is not possible.
Queensland Health supports end of trip facilities remaining open to encourage the use of active transport to the workplace and a decreased reliance on public transport.
Staff are requested to adhere to physical distancing, where possible, while using end of trip facilities. While these facilities are regularly cleaned, they continue to operate on the mutual commitment of individuals to:
- maintain physical distance from others, where possible and reasonably practicable
- carry out regular hand washing and practice good hygiene
- spend minimal time in showers and the change room to reduce congestion and in consideration of other users waiting their turn
- most importantly, not come into the workplace if feeling unwell.
The following scenarios are examples only and do not relate to any specific person or role but can be used to help staff understand the changes required to their workplace and work practices.
Jake, a regional service centre worker
Jake works in a service centre in Roma and is returning to the centre to continue helping Queenslanders in a face-to-face setting. Jake drives his car to work and parks at the centre, washes his hands upon entry to the service centre and walks to his desk.
Once Jake has arrived at his desk, he uses disinfectant wipes to wipe down the desk, computer, keyboard, mouse, phone and any other hard surfaces before he starts working, as other people use the desk when he is not working. He also wipes down the counter areas and the payment machine used, in between serving customers.
Jake notices changes to his work environment including alcohol-based hand sanitiser for him to use and some for customers.
Jake washes his hands more frequently and makes sure he disinfects his hands between each customer he helps.
Brian, a field officer
Brian's role requires him to occasionally carry out site visits to conduct inspections and complete reports. The number of site visits has declined as video conferencing and photographs have been used to verify information about the sites. However, when Brian needs to carry out a site visit, he drives to the site, uses alcohol-based hand sanitiser before entering and completes his duties while maintaining a physical distance from others. He tries to complete his duties at the site as soon as possible. Upon exiting the site, Brian disinfects his hands again.
Michelle, a manager
Michelle's team have commenced returning to their workplace in Maroochydore. At the beginning of the day her team holds a virtual meeting. Conducting meetings online ensures there aren't too many people in meeting rooms and enables staff to participate in meetings regardless of where they are working.
This cleaning protocol details the response that will be undertaken when there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Queensland Government owned or leased building with government tenants. In addition to the steps in this protocol, agencies should also consider any reporting obligations that they have under workplace health and safety regulations.
Tenant agency notifies and seeks advice from their local Queensland Health public health unit
Tenant agency enacts Queensland Health advice
Tenant agency and Human Resources assists the local public health unit, if required, to identify close contacts of the confirmed case at the workplace.
The public health unit will require those who they identify as close contacts to self-quarantine and will provide them with information on how to prevent the spread of infection.
People who are not close contacts do not have to go into quarantine but should be alert to the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, monitor their health and continue to practice recommended physical distancing and hygiene measures.
The Public Service Commission has a range of templates available to help with this process.
Tenant agency notifies relevant union.
Tenant commences actions in line with business continuity plan.
Tenant agency contacts QGAO on: 3719 7797.
QGAO arranges cleaning and disinfection in line with Queensland Health COVID-19 recommendations.
Confirmed case – HPW notifies building owner (in leased premises).
Suspected case – HPW liaises with building owner (in leased premises).
3: Notify other tenants
Confirmed case – HPW DDG or GM notifies other DGs connected to the affected building.
Suspected case – HPW DDG or GM notifies Heads of Corporate Services in affected building.
QGAO Lease Manager notifies tenant representatives in affected building.
There is a more comprehensive incident protocol on page 13 of the printable version of this guide.
Alcohol-based hand sanitisers have been installed on the ground floor and at major entry points in all government owned office buildings.
Additional alcohol-based hand sanitiser and soap for handwashing should be procured by agencies for use in the tenanted areas of buildings. Single use paper towels are recommended for drying hands.
Using the existing cleaning contracts, additional cleaning in buildings is being undertaken for high contact areas such common areas, hot desks, agile workspaces and amenities, including lift buttons and door handles. Further cleaning protocols are being followed for any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a building.
Currently, all government owned office buildings have a nightly cleaning service. The Queensland Government is using day cleaners (Monday to Friday) in all major office buildings to undertake enhanced cleaning during business hours.
For more information on how to keep workplaces clean, visit Workplace Health and Safety Queensland's Work Health and Safety in COVID-19: Guide to keeping your workplace safe, clean and healthy.
Where cleaning and hygiene products have been provided, employees should use these to assist in maintaining high levels of hygiene at their workstations, and in shared areas such as hot desks and printing areas. Cleaning products such as multi-purpose spray and disinfectant wipes should be used, ensuring that rubbish is disposed of immediately after cleaning the area. Staff who have an allocated desk can access these cleaning products to regularly clean their desks, and staff using hot desks or agile workspaces should clean them before and after use, complementing the additional cleaning that is occurring under the existing cleaning contracts.
All building services, such as lights and air-conditioning, will remain in normal operation mode during business hours. However, during the staged approach to returning to the workplace activity, the usual arrangements for building evacuation and first aid may not be possible as the usual first aid officers or floor wardens may not be in the workplace. QGAO will work with agencies to review emergency plans and first aid protocols during this transition period. The following additional advice may be helpful for agencies to share with staff.
Evacuation – advice for staff
- Familiarise yourself with the emergency evacuation posters on your floor. Each day be aware of other staff on your floor to identify who may need assistance in the event of an evacuation, if a designated Floor Warden is not available.
- In after-hours mode, an automated bell/alert/evacuation tone will sound to alert the occupants of a potential emergency incident.
- When an alert tone is sounded you should prepare to self-evacuate.
- If followed by an evacuation tone, you should proceed to self-evacuate the building.
- If you are aware of anybody still in the building report their name and location to building security or the attending Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
- Proceed to the usual assembly area and wait for further instruction.
First aid - advice for staff
- Familiarise yourself with other employees on your floor each day to identify who may be able to help with first aid assistance.
- For minor injuries, please use the first aid kit located on your floor.
- For urgent medical assistance, call 000 immediately and ask the operator for 'ambulance' and provide location and other details as requested. Follow their instructions.
Even though there are extra steps we need to take as part of ensuring we have a safe workplace for all staff, there are some things that should be managed using the normal facilities management processes. For example, agencies should continue to leverage their 'business as usual' processes for activities like:
- checking that equipment and facilities are in good working order
- supporting any moves of staff
- ergonomic checks for staff
- purchasing new equipment
- procuring cleaning supplies, including hand sanitiser.
See the Resources section of this page for additional materials.
Contact the Queensland Government Accommodation Office by phone: 3719 7797
Download a printable version of this guide. It includes more detail on the protocol to use for suspected and confirmed COVID cases, and checklists to work through.
Physical distancing and circulation
Questions and answers: cleaning and hygiene
- Will alcohol-based hand sanitiser be provided to staff?
- Many buildings have alcohol-based hand sanitiser provided, however, washing hands regularly is important to reduce the risk of transmission.
- How are kitchens and shared lunchrooms being managed?
- Daily cleaning will be undertaken in shared kitchen and lunch spaces. Staff can help reduce the risk of transmission by cleaning up after using the spaces throughout the day. Staff are encouraged to thoroughly clean shared kitchenware and eating utensils before and after use. Alternatively, employees may choose to use their own eating utensils.
- How do I continue to stay COVID-19 safe in my workplace?
To keep our workplaces COVID-19 safe, everyone should still:
- stay home if you are unwell
- get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild
- wash your hands often, using soap and water or use hand sanitiser
- continue to maintain your physical distance (think two big steps), wherever possible
- sneeze or cough into your arm or a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in the bin
- limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
- avoid handshakes, hugs and kisses
Questions and answers: returning to the workplace
- How can I travel safely to my workplace?
- The Queensland Government has worked closely with public transport providers to ensure COVID-safe measures are in place on all Queensland public transport, including:
- additional cleaning of buses, trains, ferries and stations
- additional bus and train services to support flexible travel
- use of cashless payment methods
- increased COVID-safe public messaging.
There may be situations where you are not able to maintain physical distancing while on public transport. It is recommended that you carry a face mask with you for such situations, for additional protection. While masks are not mandatory, you may wish to wear a mask when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance from other people.
- As restrictions ease, will staff be able to continue working from home if preferred?
- The Queensland Government supports flexible working. As restrictions ease, staff are encouraged to discuss the various options that may be suitable with their manager.
- Who should I contact to discuss my work arrangements?
You should contact your line manager and discuss the options available for increasing your presence in the workplace, including accessing flexible work arrangements (e.g. Working from home, working remotely or compressed hours).
Regular conversations should occur between managers and employees, to ensure that any arrangements put in place continue to promote practical, productive, and safe workplaces.
Your local Human Resources team can also be contacted for further advice on increasing your presence in the workplace.