How Can We All Get Back to Work After Coronavirus?
At the time of writing, we are in the sixth week of a seven-week lockdown, imposed by the Scottish and UK Government to help prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Despite many companies adapting and working from home, the question which needs to be on everyone’s mind is what happens when we go back to the office after the COVID-19 lockdown is over? Is it even possible for things to return to normal and to work after coronavirus?
We’ve spent the last few weeks asking ourselves this very question. We’ve been challenging ourselves to find solutions that will maximise the health and well-being over our 47 staff working over two offices and a collaborative workspace. Going back to basics, we looked at our principles and asked how we can do things in a safe and cost-effective manner.
We want to share with you some things which we consider to be essential on the journey of returning our teams to their offices. These measures will be crucial in getting the country back on its feet in a controlled and strategic manner.
On 23 April, the First Minister of Scotland released an initial draft of a document that she says is the beginning of the conversation to ease the lockdown get the country back to work. She stressed that there will need to be a “new normal” and it is this new normal which Worksmart will help to create within our places of work and learning.
The most important thing throughout all of this is the well-being of employees, clients and by extension the general population. When it’s safe to do so, we will return to work. When we do so, certain measures will be put in place to help suppress the virus. This will ensure safe and healthy re-integration into the workplace and a steady transformation to a new normal.
Our Staff are the most important factor in our business and we need to ensure they are as safe as they can be. Not only that, they need to feel safe, valued and confident in their working area. This goes for people in every market sector. We need to empower the workforce, making them feel comfortable while they work in order to allow them to work efficiently; in spite of these challenging times.
After the COVID lockdown, it will remain essential to keep social distancing measures in place for some time. This won’t be limited to the streets; it will also play an important role in the office and workplace in all market sectors.
Post-COVID, our architects and designers will strive to use available space in such a way that employees are given their own space, a healthy distance from other people. This will be very important, with people sitting at their office desks for up to 8 hours of the day.
Workspaces will need to be assessed. When they don’t comply with the 2 metre distancing rules, they will need to be removed or highlighted as a non-working workstation. Meeting rooms, conference rooms, boardrooms etc will also need to have chairs removed to facilitate social distancing.
More uptake and participation in video and conference calls will follow on from our home working boom. The advantage here is that people will feel far more comfortable using the technology now that it has become part of their everyday working lives.
By keeping people a safe distance apart, we can mitigate the spread of the virus and lower the chance of another spike in the curve.
Glazed Office Partitions and De-Cluttering
In addition to spacing, removing boxes, excess files, storage and general accumulations should be carried out to create further circulation space. We have agreed to implement a degree of glazed screening to main thorough routes in some of the general open plan office areas. This will help with general screening for airborne issues and also will assist in acoustics.
There will be less person-to-person interaction and more video and conference calls within our own internal teams too. The Glass panels will also assist in reduction of sound transfer with the increased video calls. The introduction of headsets to reduce number of voices speaking will also be needed. In addition, fully glazed offices can be created quickly and effectively to provide increased confidentiality and controlled working environments.
More open areas can be created for general collaboration and for rest and well-being. All of which will help our teams relax in these new challenging conditions and ease us into a comfortable way of working in our new environments.
Design & Workstations Adapted for Coronavirus
In addition to de-densifying workstations to create the required distancing, desk mounted screens in a full variety of permutations can be easily added with sound absorption panels and acrylic clear screens above to give added screen protection. This will help with sound attenuation that will become a concern with the increased number of video and conference calls.
Staff well-being should always be the number one priority for an employer and we should be considering sit-stand desks to promote a healthier work space. This is important when thinking about returning to work after coronavirus, but will also have knock-on effects in other areas of health and well-being in the workplace.
Air Filtration Systems to Help Prevent Coronavirus Spread
Ensuring fresh, clean air is being brought into our workplaces is going to be top priority after this crisis when it comes to allowing staff back to work after coronavirus. We work with the leading manufacturers to ensure all air filtration systems we install on refurbishment and fit-out projects meet the highest health and safety standards. The current position of air filter systems in offices may need to be altered to assist in more effective air-flow.
Staggered Working Patterns after COVID-19
A great way to ease people back into the shared workplace is by utilising staggered shifts. Alternating staff either one separate days or different working hours, will help to keep workplaces less crowded. This could mean someone working half of their hours at home, and half in the office. This type of system would be especially useful for businesses working from a small office.
Some companies already use flexi-hours which reduces the actual volume of people within a working environment at peak time such as early morning and late afternoon. The future of the workplace could see the widespread use of such systems.
This should also be extended to people’s lunch breaks. Having everyone take lunch at the same time will lead to many people in the same place at the same time: something we should all try to avoid for a while until there is a vaccine or treatment. Unless we adopt these methods of staff shifts, it will be very difficult to return to normal work after coronavirus
Dedicated Hand Washing Areas
Hand-san has really come to the fore in the last couple of months, with many people now carrying portable bottles of alcohol-based anti-bacterial hand sanitizer whenever they leave the house. Frequent hand washing is going to be incredibly important in the post-COVID world and we predict many offices will be designed with dedicated areas in each office space for sanitisation.
This could involve extra sinks being installed or simply areas where bottled hand-sanitizer dispensers are readily available for everyone to use. Encouraging staff to remain vigilant and wash their hands on a regular basis will help prevent the spread within the workplace.
Welfare, Rest and Toilets
Increased cleaning regimes are required to be followed by staff and other people entering the office environment. Ensuring we wash accordingly and use the added cleaning sanitising products in these areas is crucial. We must also use sealed bins to help everyone keep germs under control and have a cleaner and safer workspace.
Everything in the office should be taken into account when it comes to cleaning. This will include light switches, sockets, door handles and all commonly touched surfaces. These will need regular cleaning. This can be supported and positively promoted using the right signage in the required areas.
We’re sorry if this comes across as a bit rude, but it’s going to be necessary. Once everyone is back to work, we’ll be encouraging people to bring their own cutlery, bottles, mugs etc to use at work. This lack of sharing should also extend to things such as keyboards, mice, pens, phone chargers, cables etc.
Upon completion of a project, whether that be an office refurbishment, building upgrade or fit-out, everything should be completely disinfected with bac50 sanitising solution or similar. These products disinfect all surfaces to kill all bacteria and germs including COVID-19. This will allow teams to return to a fully hygienic and safe working environment.
HSE and Approved areas of Works
It has already been confirmed by the HSE that their system for RIDDOR is taking a significant interest and role in assessing if working environments are fit for working. They will want to ensure that all the risk assessment, method statements and ways of working have been assessed, planned and communicated to the team. They will be holding everyone accountable for their working environments to ensure people are safe. They are taking COVID-19 seriously, as we all are.
While we don’t know for sure how long this process of re-integration will take, we can assure you that we will be following the science and advice given by the government and health authorities to ensure our clients and our own staff are as safe as possible when they return to work after coronavirus.
We have taken the time to scrutinise how we can make the working environment safer for our teams. We hope that this will help you in looking at ways of getting your own teams back to work. We are here to support and advise on how you can make the changes to your workplace interiors and office spaces through fast-track office refurbishments.
This is a real opportunity for businesses to look at how they could and should be working moving forward. This is the chance to really cement their teams within their business, regardless of market sector. Having the right working environment: one which is modern, flexible, efficient and safe, makes us all comfortable and encourages a better level of work.
For very little cost, a significant improvement can be made which will be to everyone’s benefit. The measures outlined above will allow us to return to work after coronavirus and ensure the safety of staff.
We are here to help.