With the government giving employers more autonomy to decide where their employees work from now on, you may now be thinking about how to make it safe for your team to return to the office.
To help you out, we’ve put together this 5-step checklist, covering the key themes you need to consider when planning your back-to-the-office strategy, and the steps you should be taking to ensure a smooth and safe transition back to “WFO”.
Facilities & Cleaning
Please note: whilst we’ve covered the essentials, the necessary steps for your business will, of course, vary depending on the size and nature of your office and team. To make sure you’ve got all bases covered, make sure you consult the government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus.
1. Facilities & Cleaning
A key part of putting together a safe and responsible back-to-the office plan will, of course, require employers to keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces. Make sure the following 6 measures are front-of-mind when putting together your back-to-work plan:
It’s obvious but incredibly important—you may need to increase your cleaning budget and/or ensure that you’re stocked up on antiviral products.
Identify the high-touch areas
Things like coffee machines, kettles, fridges, printers, drawer handles, and push doors can quickly spread the virus. Have disinfectant wipes next to these areas with signs to ‘wipe down after use’.
Ensure adequate ventilation
The risk of spread via air-con is extremely low if recycled air is kept to a minimum (you can check this with your landlord). And if your employees opt to wear masks, having good air quality is even more important to ensure comfort and productivity.
Now could be the time to upgrade to automatic light sensors, toilet flushes, soap dispensers and taps to decrease high-touch zones.
Increase storage facilities
To ensure that employees don’t bring the virus in from outside, consider investing in storage boxes or lockers for personal items (bags from a commute etc.). This limits the risk of spread in the office.
Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise
Keep plenty of hand sanitiser around the office (at least 60% alcohol). And make sure you stock up on the mini bottles for travel to external meetings!
Your Shopping List
- Hand Gel
- Sanitiser stations
- Small mini bottles
- Disinfectant wipes—to place around the office, especially in your pre-identified high-touch zones
- Signs (lots of signs)
- 2m floor signs for areas that have queues (tea stations, lifts, etc)
- Reminders to disinfect
- One-way directional signs
- Spare masks—if employees have to go to external meetings it is sensible to provide these
- Plants—they can help increase air quality…and they make the office more pleasant!
- Storage bins / lockers—having areas in which people can store their own belongings minimises spread. It also helps if you’re introducing a rotational desk system for the first time.
2. Time Management
Many employees are worried about the commute and the idea of coming into contact with large numbers of people on office days. These simple solutions can mitigate such concerns.
Flexing your official start and finish times allows the team to travel off-peak and avoid busy public transport. To reduce any practical issues this may cause (e.g. difficulty arranging meetings), consider introducing ‘core hours’—e.g. 11-4pm—and allow people to be flexible around them.
Schedule rotational team days
Calculate how many people your office can safely accommodate with the new social distancing guidelines—then create a rota, where different teams/departments come in on different days, minimising non-essential contact.
Track who is in, when
Having a simple and visible system to record who is in on which day is helpful for three main reasons:
1) If someone displays symptoms, you can alert everyone immediately
2) You can collect data on office use
3) It’s easier to book meetings
3. Space Management
A few simple tweaks to the layout of your workspace can also ensure that your employees are as safe and productive as possible.
The Government advises that people are seated at least 2m apart. If possible, move the desks in advance, before your team are back.
Also, a back-to-back or side-to-side arrangement is much better than front-to-front. Can you make any easy tweaks? If not, can you install temporary shields?
It’s the worst seat in the house at the best of times, but should actively be avoided during the pandemic. Try to avoid seating any employees in a walkway, where people pass regularly—otherwise that person could be put unnecessarily at risk.
Optimise for purpose
What is your office space being used for right now? If individual work can be done remotely, is the office primarily a place for collaboration or meetings? If so, is it worth optimising the space, making it more spacious and safer for teamwork?
Ensuring that there’s clear, regular, two-way communication with your team can go a long way in alleviating employees’ fears—and ensure that measures you put in place are adhered to.
Many workers remain nervous about returning to the office—meaning it’s important to communicate what you’re doing to make the office safe as soon as possible, and what they need to do to contribute to this.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
You may sound like a broken record, but it’s essential to keep reminding the team to follow the measures you’ve put in place—like the wiping down of high-touch areas and importance of sanitisation.
Regularly remind your employees to monitor their symptoms, and make sure they have a designated person or email address they can alert to any changes.
Create open feedback loops
Your ultimate aim is to provide an area where your team feel comfortable and safe—so make sure you listen to what they need and want. We recommend surveying the team, and regularly—as situations can change quickly.
5. Team Behaviour
These final measures can help your employees take extra control over their and their colleagues’ personal safety.
Make it easier to NOT take public transport
If you have one, publicise your Cycle to Work Scheme—as it could help your team avoid taking public transport. Alternatively, a ‘steps challenge’ can encourage walking to work, while helping your remote team to keep active.
Meetings and lunch breaks
When it comes to meetings, suggest that employees keep doors open where possible to help increase airflow, and remind the team that the 2m advice still applies. And at lunch, encourage the team to take their break outside (weather permitting!).
It’s also best to discourage the use of microwaves and fridges.
Encourage good practices
Being clear around “office etiquette” can help to reduce the spread. Discourage handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps, and choose a socially distant method of greeting each other that suits your team!
As well as the government guidelines, you may also find the following resources useful:
What are your workplace options right now?
In this new, remote-friendly era of working, you may be rethinking the way your company uses office space in general. To make things simpler, we’ve listed the 4 main ways of approaching office space in the current climate.
Want to talk through your options?
Alternatively, you can book a call below (our service is completely free of charge):