Your Office

The plan for your physical premises will vary depending on your office space, and the directions and support of your landlord or facilities manager.

Cleaning and sanitizing

The biggest impact to your physical space will be increased sanitizing and disinfecting procedures. Here are some suggestions to help reduce virus transmission risks:

  • Consider hiring full-time custodial staff to perform constant cleaning or increase the cleaning frequency. In this “new normal,” it is acceptable and even comforting to see cleaners during the workday.
  • Make hand sanitizer available in common areas and encourage hand hygiene.
  • Implement a “clean desk policy” to avoid accumulation of personal effects and paperwork, and allow for thorough night-time surface cleaning.
  • Remove magazines and other literature from reception areas.
  • Clean high-touch areas (door handles, light switches, stair railings) and shared office equipment like phones, copiers and printers, expense recovery systems coders, fax machines and postage machines frequently and visibly. Keep disinfecting wipes near that equipment to allow people to disinfect before using it.
  • Establish a protocol for cleaning meeting rooms immediately after meetings and allow time between bookings for that cleaning.
  • Implement a standardised system to indicate where an area or equipment has been cleaned or requires cleaning – e.g. colour coded place card or post-it note.
  • Reconsider “hotelling” or rotating space where people share phones, headsets, computers keyboards, pens, staplers or any other desk items. If you continue, provide disinfecting wipes for people to clean before using the equipment.
  • Implement modified seating in reception and meeting rooms. Assign seats and materials to each person for day-long sessions 
    to avoid multiple people touching surfaces or items.
  • Centralize trash and recycling bins to increase the frequency of disposal and free up time for custodial staff to complete additional cleaning protocols.
  • Can you adjust air circulation to avoid certain high traffic areas or keep air circulation to separate “wings” to reduce droplet transmission? 
    Can windows be opened to allow for fresh air?
  • Can you order additional supplies prior to returning to the office? In some places there may be an insufficient supply of hand soap, dishwasher detergent, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and paper products: tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. Be sure you have enough before you return to the office.
  • Allow clients to keep stationary (e.g. pens, pads, etc.) or use colour coded containers to indicate those that have been used vs sanitised.
  • Discuss what is the best way to handle incoming mail and other deliveries. e.g., designate one person to open mail, wearing PPE, once a day. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has a lifespan of about 24 hours on cardboard. So, if it’s not urgent, let the items sit for 24 hours.
  • As a longer-term initiative, consider changing fixtures to “hands-free”: faucets, soap and paper towel dispensers, automatic doors, badge readers and garbage/recycling bins.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE includes face masks, gloves and potentially goggles or a face shield. Follow the guidelines of Health Canada and your provincial/territorial Health Officer about recommended practices before you implement any practices in your office.

Be sure to explain to your people and clients what practices you are following and why. Where you require that PPE be worn, be clear on who is responsible for supplying that PPE and provide instructions on how to properly put on and remove PPE.

Regardless of your new practices, some of your people may choose to wear their own or additional PPE when returning to the office to protect them from the transmission of germs through contact and droplet routes. Respect those individual views to the extent possible.

To support legal workplaces providing masks to their people and clients, CBA has sourced non-surgical supplies of cloth and disposable masks for bulk purchase. Contact your local branch to order.

Lunchrooms and food supply

The lunchroom or kitchen, with common touchpoints such as a faucet, fridge, water cooler, dishwasher, microwave, cutlery and dishes, presents challenges for sanitizing and physical distancing. Approaches to this issue will vary and could include:

  • Close the lunchroom entirely.
  • Eliminate seating but permit the use of the fridge.
  • Ask your people to bring their own cutlery/cups or switch to disposable utensils/cups.
  • Consider setting staggered lunch hours for people to use the lunchroom.
  • Require that all food delivery be dropped off or collected outside the office to minimise the number of third parties within the office.
  • Make disinfecting wipes available to clean fridge handle, microwave, faucets, etc.
  • Limit beverage services or provide disposable cups / bottled water for clients.

If your office routinely hosts business meals or provides food to staff, consider eliminating buffets or self-serve and instead arrange for pre-packed individual food. Be sure to let providers know how you are receiving those deliveries.

Physical distancing

Maintaining a 2-metre physical distance has been identified as a key factor in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and it should be a key element of your return to the office plan.

  • Consider the provincial/territorial restrictions about numbers of people in a space. How many people can you, therefore, have on a floor or in a wing? Some authorities overseas have suggested that there should be no more than one person for each 4m2 of office space.
  • Consider installing a plexiglass shield at the reception desk. Plexiglass may also be used to separate the client and any lawyer or staff meeting with the client.
  • To help everyone follow a two-metre distancing requirement, physically mark it on the floor:
    • from the seat in an office or workstation
    • in reception
    • in the boardroom and meeting rooms
    • in front of an elevator
    • in the elevator
    • in the kitchen
    • wherever there could be a line or staff cross-over (photocopier, elevator, washroom).
  • In the case of narrow hallways, consider marking one-way directional routes (e.g. clockwise) or establish a one-person-only in a hallway rule.
  • CBA has produced complimentary, downloadable sign templates that legal workplaces are welcome to print and post in their offices.
  • Consider closing off social and other non-critical areas.
  • Identify areas that won’t be in use in order to maintain the requirements. Lock doors or remove chairs from workstations, reception or the boardroom (this also helps the custodial staff clean only what is necessary), place signs, indicate it on a floor plan and circulate it to your people.
  • If you don’t have space to store unused furniture, ask your landlord or co-tenants if they have any unoccupied space. Some offices may not be returning to work yet. Otherwise, look into getting monthly storage space off-site.
  • Consider installing shields between workstations or re-orient workstations, so employees do not face one another.
  • Consider which doors could be left open, while still maintaining security and confidentiality, and adhering to fire codes.


When you know about the changing needs of your people, reconsider parking allotments:

  • Do you have enough staff parking to accommodate those who need to drive?
  • Are there people who would give up their spot to benefit others who need it?
  • Can you alternate days for staff to come into the office to free up parking spots?
  • Can you lease more parking spots in the building? In nearby parking facilities?


Once you’ve determined the required changes for your physical premises, clearly and transparently communicate these to staff. Installing signs on doors, in elevators and/or reception areas that identify the measures in place will provide information and assurance.

Be sure to also inform key stakeholders of any requirements affecting them including:

  • visitors
  • suppliers
  • landlords
  • other tenants (e.g. it is important to communicate and share protocols and expectations if you share common spaces, kitchen or bathroom facilities, office space or building floors with other tenants)
  • contractors – such as janitorial staff and IT support
  • insurer(s)
  • Canada Post and other couriers (e.g. implement a designated drop-off area)