Perhaps the only success story of the pandemic was the relative ease at which the UK population adopted remote working, with a huge number of employers adopting the practice, and many reporting good results. A lot of employees have also expressed their desire to continue remote working, with some showing disdain at the idea of having to return to the office. Returning to the office does not have to be painful, however, and safety should be emphasised throughout the process. Here are a few of our top tips for how you can open the office safely.
Your office will have a set capacity of people that it can accommodate whilst still keeping to social distancing. This limit is probably lower than your overall number of employees, so if all of your employees turn up at once, you’re going to have a problem. To solve this issue, ask your employees to only come in one or two days a week so that the office is only ever half full. To keep track of numbers more easily, supply your employees with ID cards from somewhere like InstantCard. They can then scan in and out as they arrive and leave, and you can remotely keep an eye on the number of people in the building. This will also be useful for security and fire safety too, so it kills a few birds with one stone.
Reconsider your Layout
In a pre-pandemic world, offices will not have been designed with social distancing in mind. There will likely be spots where people are forced to be close to one another, or where a large number of people will be moving through a corridor. Try to work with the space you have, moving desks and objects to facilitate social distancing throughout the building. Consider implementing a one-way system to prevent people from being crowded into corridors. You could also use varia ecoresin panels, from https://www.3-form.com/materials/varia, to create a divide in some spaces or block off rooms. That could be useful to make sure people don’t walk somewhere they’re not supposed to. Alternatively, they could be used to make some rooms more private, such as meeting areas.
Keep your Surfaces Clean
It is a good idea to have your office deep-cleaned before your employees return to the office anyway, but there are other steps you can take to maintain this cleanliness. Make a large quantity of antiseptic wipes available for your employees to use to wipe down their workspaces at the end of the day. Make sure a cleaning team is on hand to full wipe down any surfaces once your employees have gone home.
You can also make sure your employees themselves remain clean by providing plenty of hand sanitising stations throughout the building to ensure no coronavirus droplets can be passed on via surfaces.
Ventilate your Office
Whilst it is a good idea to ensure that your employees wear face masks at all times, this is not a silver bullet against coronavirus. It should always be used in tandem with other measures. Try to keep doors and windows open at all times throughout the day, as this will ensure there is clean airflow throughout the office. This will be especially easy when the weather is hot, but make sure these measures are being followed when it is colder as well.
Have your Employees Protect Themselves
There is a lot that can be done in the office to ensure it is a safe working environment, however it is extremely important to make sure that employees keep themselves safe when at home or travelling to and from work.
Communicating with employees about the importance of social distancing, wearing face masks, and using hand sanitiser both in and out of work is essential.
We recommend that you also ask your employees to take regular antigen tests to ensure that they are healthy, and to also check their temperature each morning before coming into work.
Guidance should also be issued to employees in case they feel unwell, or have symptoms of COVID-19. Tell them to stay at home and take a Healgen rapid Antigen test to see if they have coronavirus. If they test positive, then they should self-isolate at home under current government guidance.
Recognise your Employees’ Needs
Your employees have been out of the office for over a year, and their priorities and needs from their work will likely have changed. Try to maintain open lines of communication with them, listen to their feedback, and implement changes that they suggest. You could definitely look at Hybrid Workplace tips to facilitate flexibility of your workforce and also, understand the problems that they might be facing. This will help to create an environment where your employees feel like they are listened to, which will put them at ease.
Some of your employees may not yet feel comfortable returning to the office, especially not on a full-time basis. You should respect these concerns, and not push people to return if they do not want to. This will create a much more relaxed atmosphere, and more practical help facilitate social distancing.