As lockdown restrictions are gradually easing, we are joining other offices and non-essential workplaces that are beginning to reopen and return to normal working life. It’s unlikely that things will go back to what we once thought was ‘normal’, and we have chosen to make permanent changes to the way in which we work. Here we take a look at the steps all businesses can take to make a return to work safe and productive.
It’s important that you consider what changes you need to make to the physical working environment before staff return to the office full time. What do you need to set up in advance and how do you bring staff back into the workplace safely?
Some form of social distancing is likely to be recommended for a while to come. Consider the layout of your workspace in order to allow more space around workstations than you would have done previously, so that employees can move about the office more freely. You might consider changing the way meetings are held so that participants are not crammed in one room. In-person meetings will be one of the biggest benefits of returning to the office but think about location: walking meetings can be a great alternative in small groups or perhaps holding meetings in a breakout space instead of a conference room will allow people to spread out more.
The placement of desk and floor screens is one of the simplest and most obvious ways to separate work areas. As well as providing a physical barrier, office screens offer a number of other benefits, such as giving each employee more privacy at their desk and absorbing some of the surrounding noise to improve overall acoustics. The open office landscape has faced many critics over the past few years due to the high noise levels and lack of privacy; returning to a busy workplace will be a shock to the system for many employees after a year of working from home. With smart investment, the right screens will be an effective solution to two separate problems.
While people are still nervous about the spread of the Coronavirus, ensure that hand sanitiser stations are readily available upon entry into the building and throughout the office. We have recently had installed air and surface sterilisation devices, which provide an added layer of ongoing protection to compliment our already good cleaning regimes.
Working with Intelligent Facility Solutions Ltd, we can be assured of the best possible solutions to keep the office area and our teams safe. Cleaning is essential but we cannot constantly clean or fog an area, so it is important for us to understand the technology available. We installed air and surface sterilisation technologies to kill microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and mould) by disrupting their DNA and removing their reproductive capabilities.
The technology sounds complicated, but in practice it is a low-cost investment and so simple and easy to install. A very small price to pay for improving air quality and potentially reducing absenteeism. In the age of covid-19 it’s a vital component of a safe workplace.
We also opted to install electric hand driers throughout the business, thus eliminating the requirement for towels and paper towels around the office and washrooms.
The HSE has always recommended maximising the amount of fresh air in a space but the pandemic has brought it back into the forefront of our minds. As we come into summer, natural ventilation can play a big part; open windows, doors and air vents to allow for natural airflow.
If your building has any outdoor space, encourage staff to make the most of the warmer weather by installing picnic benches or outdoor seating areas where employees can take their lunch break or even sit out to take phone calls and work for a while. Not only is this a much lower risk for the spread of infection but spending time outdoors has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health by reducing stress and improving mood.
Andrew Cameron, Managing Director of Intelligent Facility Solutions Ltd added: “We are pleased to be supporting Nicky and the team for a safe return to work. Our core business principles are centred around sustainability and being a force for good for the environment means that we can always provide the best possible solutions to meet the needs of the business.”.
Nicky Jolley, Managing Director of HR2day said: “Making some fairly simple changes to office layout can have a significant impact on health and safety at work with respect to the spread of Covid-19.
“I met Andrew when we were both taking the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business programme, and immediately knew that he and the team at Intelligent Facility Solutions Ltd had similar values to ourselves, that gave me the confidence to know we are operating as safely as possible, now and in the future.”