Written by Dan Holgate
Most businesses and office workplaces are starting to look at the reopening of their buildings prior to the government removing all restrictions imposed during COVID-19.
It is likely that pre-virus working environments will be unfit for the new restrictions. Businesses will need to be proactive in reconfiguring their office spaces. The requirement for 2 metres between employees’ will impact on the whole working environment such as individual seating arrangements, break out areas, toilets, kitchens, what time employees enter the building, which entrance each employee uses and all shared spaces.
Employers will also need to consider the potential discrimination issues surrounding returning to work, particularly relating to employees with primary child-caring responsibilities, vulnerable employees, those with mental health issues and demographics who are more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.
The human component of returning to office life requires as much focus as the practical one. For staff who have been away from their workplaces for weeks or months, returning may feel unsettling. Many things for each worker could have changed in the interim, some of their old colleagues may not be returning at all. Successful businesses thrive on motivated workforces, so its important leaders invest efforts to rebuild workplace morale,as well as acknowledging any concerns and dispiritedness that their employees may have and treat announcements regarding the new operating environment with sensitivity.
Are you prepared to address all of these challenges?
In the SSDC office at Pertemps, we have already started to phase back our employees into the office and have had to take all of these things into consideration when planning to make our environment ‘COVID-19 safe’.
In order to manage the flow of traffic around the office and to avoid being within 2 metres of another employee as much as possible, our office was divided into 4 quadrants - red, orange, blue and green. We have provided all of our employees with a map showing the direction and lane they must stick to with coloured arrows on the floor.
Below is a visual of one area of the office:
As you can see with the example of one of our working floors within SSDC, red and orange colour employees must use the front door of the office whereas the members of staff seated in the blue and green areas must enter and exit the building using the back door only. This is to avoid a mass of traffic leaving the office at the same time and potentially breaching the social distancing rules. All workers within each quadrant have also been given staggered start and end times within a 30- minute window to again lower the risk of breaking social distancing measures.
Smaller but as effective measures have been put in place:
- The lockers and coat cupboards have been placed as out of bounds, with coats and bags being stored at desks.
- The kitchen has been placed on ‘lockdown’ for the foreseeable future.
- The fridge, cupboards, microwaves and dishwasher are all out of action.
- Cutlery and crockery from the kitchen are not to be used, employees must bring in their own.
- All workers must also wash cutlery and crockery at home to avoid potential contamination points and excessive non-essential time in the kitchen
Again, sticking with the coloured separation, each coloured area has a 15-minute allotted time each hour which is repeated every hour for access to the kitchen, such as the below.
This is the level of details at all working offices, which we must take into consideration when considering bring their workforce back from the working from home environment.
We are constantly reviewing these new procedures to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible.
Are you prepared to return to the office?
We would welcome any external input or any feedback on your experiences, in regards to adapting your workplace during the current pandemic.