As we ease out of lockdown, we’re all preparing for the return to work and how we can do that safely. The government has released its proposals for what employers should consider when bringing teams back into the workspace with social distancing and enhanced cleanliness guidance still taking precedence.
The guidance is not to be taken lightly and everyone will need to take responsibility, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others.
We’ve been busy working behind the scenes to prepare our buildings so that they are ready for everyone to return. We’ve spoken to our customers and colleagues to help shape our plan so that the return to work is as smooth as possible for our communities.
The prospect of returning to the office raises a mixture of concerns including: safety at work (54%); the uncertainty of when it will be and what it will look like (52%); and being told to return to work before feeling comfortable (34%). And, of course, keeping teams updated on these changes is just as important as the changes we are making to keep everyone safe.
The transition of returning to work will be different for everyone. Some people will be itching to get back to the office, whereas others will be feeling anxious about what lies ahead. Working together to keep everyone safe is important, now more than ever. We want to help you to manage this process and ensure our customers and communities can return to work as smoothly as possible.
Here, we’ve put together six principles that you and your business can be thinking about to help put everyone in the best, safest and healthiest position possible when returning to work:
1. Getting the workspace ready
2. Creating a social distancing plan
3. Prioritising safety
4. Focusing on hygiene and cleanliness
5. Preparing your team
6. Communicating with confidence
Getting the workspace ready
Many offices will have been empty for some time now, so it's important that checks are made to ensure they are ready for people to return.
Have you completed the following?
- Clean all surfaces using disinfectants from government approved or authorised lists
- Prepare plans for any cleaning changes or additions that might need to be made
- Check that HVAC, fire and lift safety systems are in order
- Carry out all the necessary inspections and repairs that need to be made for people to return
- Set out social distancing guidelines across both workspaces and common areas...
Creating a social distancing plan
A well thought-out social distancing plan for your office will be crucial for the safety of your colleagues and any potential visitors. It’s worth bearing in mind that this plan may need to be adapted over time, as more people return to the workplace and official guidance changes.
Here are some things you might like to think about…
- Creating a rota to prevent whole teams being needed in the office at one time
- Reconfiguring common areas and reception to accommodate for social distancing
- Redesign office floor plan to support social distancing, including alternate chair/desks, the addition of panels between desks
- Create a walking system and signpost directions of foot traffic in main circulation areas
- Assign seats, reducing hot desking, to ensure employees are well distanced
- Reduce the capacity available with less desks/screens and fewer chairs in meeting rooms
To create a workspace that is safe for everyone, you may want to think about reconfiguring how people use the space. Changes can be ramped up or down and adapted as more people return to the workspace or the risks minimise.
You might want to consider:
- Restricting access to lifts and stairwells
- Control entry and exit points
- Protocol for using amenities e.g. showers, breakout areas and coworking spaces
- Limiting the use of meeting rooms
- Clearly communicating social distancing protocols through signage/floor markings
- Creating a visitor policy and communicating this effectively
Focusing on hygiene and cleanliness
Focusing on hygiene and cleanliness is a key part of safeguarding colleagues and in the office space. To help our people feel more prepared and comfortable, we’ve committed to high cleanliness and hygiene levels with increased cleaning schedules, as well as providing readily available and accessible hand sanitisation points.
Here's how your business and your people can create a cleaner, safer workplace:
- Sanitise all areas before opening
- Maintain regular cleaning processes
- Supply disinfectants at working areas
- Remove any shared food and drink options
- Allow for DIY cleaning through hand sanitisers, disinfectant wipes etc.
- Limit in-person meetings
- Use no or low-touch doors and switches
- Remove high touch shared tools such as pens and remotes
- Create secure and designated storage areas for personal items
Preparing your team
Once the workplace is ready for colleagues and customers to return, it is important to make your team aware of the steps that have been taken, and are available, to ensure they will be safe while at work.
There are a number of steps businesses can take to make sure their employees feel comfortable and safe returning to work…
- Detailed communications about the return to work process, including updates and reviews as the process is managed
- Explain the benefits of returning to work, but also listen to concerns
- Provide advice about the options and alternative means of commuting
- Prepare and post reminders about social distancing
Communicate with confidence
This is such a strange time for everyone and we will all respond to the return to work differently. Ensure that you are transparent and honest in your communications, listen to your team and continually review where necessary. That goes for all of your team, whether they are returning to work, working from home, or on furlough.
- Allow for two-way communication
- Instill a transparent and trusting culture
- Manage employee expectations
- Welcome people back with warmth through digital signage and posters
- Maintain health and wellbeing priorities, listen to concerns and be sensitive
- Stay connected by supporting and managing those still working remotely
With over 40 years of experience owning and managing vibrant workspaces, we’re here to help you and your team navigate back to work. We can take care of your workspace, giving your practical support, so that you can focus on what really matters to you - your colleagues and your business.
If you would like us to support you in getting your space ready or have any questions then get in touch here.