These last few months have entirely transformed the world, not least the workplace. As lockdown restrictions in the UK begin to relax and businesses slowly begin to return to work, the most important question becomes: how can offices and workplaces ensure a safe working environment for employees and customers?
Here are some of the challenges you will face when opening up your place of work again and how you might adapt it to ensure a smooth transition back.
How to prepare your commercial building for a return to work:
Most businesses will likely be eager to return to work, but the reality is that work spaces that haven’t been occupied since the start of the lockdown will need to implement changes to ensure a COVID-19 safe environment and, most importantly, an environment that feels safe and welcoming for the employee. At Conamar, we have already made these alterations to our own office and understand the requirements being imposed. We can therefore advise you on your best options going forward, with the confidence your workplace will be compliant with the new guidelines.
Re-organisation and safety compliance starts with the building systems. Ensuring that any systems that have previously been shut down are back online, up-to-date, and still compliant with all government guidance is absolutely vital. Checking these systems including: lighting, emergency lighting, fire alarms, water supplies, ventilation, building security, electrical compliance, and any life safety equipment, will take up a good amount of time, so plan for this.
It is then encouraged to plan the flow of traffic around your building. When areas become overcrowded there is a higher risk of infection, so you must take measures to ensure that everyone going back to work understands where they can and cannot walk, and if there are any restrictions on the number of people in certain areas. It is a good idea to invest in floor stickers to show the direction of traffic as well as reminding people about safe distancing. It may be an idea to segregate your teams further, to restrict access to an area to just the team working in that zone. We can advise on suitable partitions or other options you could employ, for example taking down internal walls to create more space for circulation or social distancing.
With the building logistically compliant to social distancing rules, you can now assess your true capacity for reoccupation. It is not uncommon to find that your building occupancy will be severely reduced even after implementing all safety procedures. A row of desks that used to seat four staff members could now seat up to two. It is your job to work out how many staff members you can safely bring back and ensure a comfortable work environment. It is not out of the question to bring people back on a part time basis on a rota, so that all your staff make a touchpoint in the office at some point each week. It should be noted that sharing of equipment and desks is not encouraged, and your cleaning regimes should be increased to accommodate any sharing if you need to engage a rota, with anti bacterial gel and cleaning wipes/fluids widely available.
We know that some carriers of COVID-19 show no symptoms at all, so whilst it is strongly advised that all staff members check themselves for symptoms before entering the office each day, it is naive to assume that COVID-19 couldn’t get into your building. It is therefore vital to analyse your touch points and understand where staff or customers will regularly make contact with their surroundings. Installing hand sanitising stations at these areas will dramatically reduce the chances of spreading the disease through contact. Areas of particular importance include: entry and exit doors, lift buttons, security swipes and keypads, internal door handles, meeting room tables and shared phones. Conamar have a robust supply chain for all of these items, to get you the best prices available in the marketplace.
Finally, it is important to increase the levels of communication within the business. Managing the expectations of those returning to work is vital for creating a safe environment, and communicating clearly and effectively what staff members will expect to see when they enter the building will help a smooth transition back to work. Remember that some people will not be as confident returning to normality as others, so an increase in communication will help to ensure them that you are doing everything in your power to make the workplace safe.
If you need help or further guidance on restructuring your business premises to meet new government guidelines, then do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re happy to help advise and provide effective solutions for your return to work. We can work within your budget and advise on the best options available for you. We’re even used to working in live environments to reduce any disruption to your workforce whilst we are getting your building up to standard.