As the light at the end of this very challenging tunnel begins to shine brighter with every positive milestone of the roadmap being achieved, offices will once again begin to become populated.
Attitudes to returning to the office are likely to vary on a company-by-company basis, but whether it’s a desire to hot-desk, to hybrid, to only go in once in a while or to call your office ‘home’ again, one shared feeling is that anyone stepping foot inside a workspace will want to feel safe and comfortable in doing so.
Here are the 10 considerations we feel you should be thinking about as your team returns to the office:
1. Identify essential workers
While many office workers have transitioned to working from home, some individuals cannot work remotely due to the nature of their role or for security reasons. Some of these individuals may still be going to the office or will be some of the first employees to phase back in. It’s important to engage with departments to identify and prioritise essential employees. This data can be applied towards a phased plan for re-entering the office.
2. Rethink density to prioritise physical distancing
For critical departments and employees who remain in the office or are soon heading back, we are seeing utilisation of the entire workplace being used to accommodate physical distancing. While maintaining the existing layout of desks and furniture, seating can be assigned to accommodate the latest recommendations for safe physical distancing.
3. Plan phased scenarios for returning to work
With limited seating available and essential workers identified, organisations can plan for phased re-entry to the office based on role criteria.
4. Reconfigure agile spaces
While using every other desk will reduce your capacity, utilising meeting rooms, focus rooms, training rooms, and break out spaces as dedicated seating areas can increase the headcount of employees in the office while maintaining physical distancing. As workers return to the office, these spaces will again be used to enhance collaboration in a safe way. Clearly identifying which seats respect physical distancing and removing excess seating will help users follow guidelines.
5. Reconsider the use of free address seating areas
Free address workplaces typically operate on a first come-first serve basis and offer fewer desks than people. The immediate concern with this type of workplace is cleanliness and cross- contamination from multiple people sharing desks.
To reduce cross contamination, plans to phase employees back into these environments may involve dedicated seats to individuals for a set period of time. If alternating the occupants assigned to each desk on different days or weeks, clearly communicating the plan with cleaning services will be crucial to instilling confidence in employees that desks have been sanitised.
6. Track who sits where
Knowing where employees are assigned and their likely circulation paths throughout the day can support a focused cleaning response if an employee does exhibit symptoms, and also indicate other employees assigned to the same vicinity.
7. Introduce shift work
This approach allows for more individuals to use the workplace on a shift basis. With clearly assigned desks, physical distancing can be maintained for those on the same shift, while making the office accessible to a larger number of employees over time. It also allows for facilities to plan their cleaning schedule.
8. Designate isolation rooms
In the event an employee exhibits symptom, organisations will need the ability to isolate employees while at work. Designating and communicate these spaces to managers and employee to ensure employee well-being. An isolation space can be any type of enclosed room.
9. Plan and communicate cleaning regimens
With cleanliness top of mind for individuals returning to work, organizations need to plan, communicate, and enforce cleaning regimens to both support services and employees. Identifying which spaces are assigned to employees, and when, will help cleaning services prioritise their work. Adding physical indicators, such as printed cleaning schedules, to desks and spaces can strengthen confidence that the spaces have been attended to.
10. Screen for admittance to the office
To mitigate the chance of bringing COVID-19 to the office, companies are implementing mandatory screening protocols for all employees every day before they enter the office. Screening questions range from travel-related questions to health symptoms. The results of the screen will indicate whether the individual should enter the workplace or remain home on each day.
As we proceed into the months ahead, and plans commence for the return to the office, we hope these considerations can support the balance of business continuity and the safety of workers everywhere.
Our team are here to help regarding any office health and safety guidance as part of our turnkey workplace design and build solutions, so please get in touch on 0117 231 0077 to discuss how to create a working environment that your team can stay happy and healthy.