Covid-19 has changed the way we all live our daily lives, including in the workplace. From social distancing measures, hand sanitising and working from home, there have been many measures implemented to try to stop the spread of the virus. One of these measures is encouraging people to wear a face covering, in particular, face masks.
In September 2020, the UK government introduced mandatory measures on mask-wearing in public spaces, such as shops, bars, restaurants and other indoor environments. These rules have not only prompted questions about businesses’ responsibilities when it comes to face coverings, but they’ve also had employers wondering how much these disposable masks will cost them when they return to the workplace.
With lockdown rules relaxing, and with many businesses planning to return to the office over the next few months, you might be wondering as an employer if you need to provide your staff with face masks? Many questions are circulating regarding costs, the type of mask you should buy, and their benefits for each kind of mask.
That’s why we’ve put together the following guide on everything you need to know about face coverings in the office and the benefits and cost-effectiveness of each different type of mask.
Do office workers need to wear masks?
With the government introducing mandatory mask-wearing in public indoor spaces, employees are unsure whether they’ll be required to wear a face mask on their return to the office. The current guidelines state that:
‘Face coverings must be worn by retail, leisure, and hospitality staff working in any indoor area that is open to the public and where they’re likely to come into contact with a member of the public.’
Indoor public areas include:
- estate agents
- post offices
- public areas of hotels and hostels
For all other indoor settings, including offices, the government recommends that it’s down to the individual employer to assess whether they need to implement mandatory mask-wearing in their Covid-19 health and safety assessment. This will ultimately depend on the workplace environment and other Covid-19 safety measures that have already been put in place.
So in answer to the question, ‘do office workers need to wear masks?’ It depends. The decision ultimately comes down to whether you, as an employer, think the risks of spreading the disease are significant enough in your office space for employees to wear a face covering.
Benefits of providing face masks to staff
The most significant and most obvious benefit of providing face masks to your employees is the added protection they offer against coronavirus. The virus is passed from person to person via droplets from coughs, sneezes and talking. Scientific evidence suggests that face masks can reduce the spread of the virus by acting as a barrier.
If the majority of your staff decide to wear a mask in the office, especially in communal areas, straight away, you’re reducing the likelihood that the virus will pass between them. This will stop outbreaks from happening in your workplace, meaning that productivity will not be affected and absenteeism will remain low.
Disposable vs reusable face masks
If you’ve decided to provide your staff with face masks, then great! While there are some benefits to disposable face masks, there are many advantages to bulk buying reusable face masks for your employees.
Disposable face masks
When the pandemic first started, we suddenly all became familiar with the sight of the blue disposable surgical mask that is often used in medical settings. This type of face covering is usually made from plastic and can only be used the one time.
Disposable face masks are great for use in medical and healthcare settings, such as hospitals. They are designed to stop the spread of germs and can be quickly replaced with a fresh, clean one after use.
However, for use in offices and other workplaces, they are not very cost-effective or eco-friendly. If you bulk buy disposable masks for your staff, remember that each mask will only be able to be used once. Not only can this end up costing you a lot of money in the long run, but it also creates a lot of plastic waste. It’s estimated that around 60 tonnes of landfill will be filled with disposable masks in a week!
Reusable face coverings
Compared with single-use disposable masks, a reusable face covering has many advantages:
- Reusable face masks can be easily washed and then used again, just like the reusable shopping bags that you take to the supermarket in the battle against throw-away plastic. In the long run, this’ll save your business money by providing masks to your staff.
- They’re usually made of natural materials like cotton, making them much more comfortable to wear over long periods.
- Branded face masks are a thing! Reusable masks can be branded with your company logo, so your staff can represent your business, even when they’re on the go.
- Reusable face coverings are more sustainable and better for the environment. The clue is in the name; this type of mask can be reused and washed as part of your laundry.
Are businesses required to provide face masks?
This is one of the burning questions that many employers have when it comes to returning to the office. All employers already have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their workers. As we mentioned above, office-based businesses should carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment before returning to the office. They should also follow the government guidance in encouraging social distancing, hand hygiene, surface cleaning and fixed teams to manage the risk of the virus. This does not necessarily include the wearing of face masks in the office.
All employers should support workers wearing face masks if they choose to do so. You should also consider that the government encourages wearing face-covering in indoor places where social distancing is challenging to maintain. In these cases, it is considered best practice if you supply both your staff and visitors with face masks when needed.
Cost-effective reusable face masks from Mask4Life
Looking to provide your employees with reusable face masks? Mask4Life’s face masks are double-layered, reusable, fully washable and offer a stylish and comfortable design. As they are fully washable, it reduces the cost of purchasing disposable masks, and there is a 100% reduction in waste!
Find out now how much you could save by switching to M4L using our online calculator!
We also provide masks with PVC windows for those that need visual communication to speak with others. From the choice of material to heat transfer, embroidery and woven labels, we can help you develop something unique – a mask that speaks the language of your brand.
If this is something that you’re looking into as part of your return to work project, then get in touch, and a member of our team will be happy to help you with your enquiry.