It’s more important than ever to review social distancing in offices.
As of August the 1st, the UK government gave the go-ahead for offices to re-open as long as they are deemed COVID secure. We wanted to share some of our knowledge and experience of achieving sustainable social distancing and a COVID secure workplace.
Identify the risk
People are the most important part of any organisation. Although you might have adapted well to home working, it’s worth bearing in mind that each individual will have their own concerns and issues. Ongoing changes to workstations mean that regular workplace assessments will be required. These assessments can help you to identify higher-risk individuals that may need specific action plan as to where, when, and how they work.
Before you return, conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed to make sure that you are effectively managing the risk and protecting people.
How many people can you accommodate in your offices whilst safely maintaining social distancing? A furniture space plan is a good first step to establish how you can break up the office to promote 2 meters social distancing.
Who can safely return to work? If you have higher risk individuals you’ll need to make reasonable adjustments and formulate an action plan.
Design for distancing
The main focus for designing socially distanced workspaces is to give allow a 2-meter distance between each person. Where that’s not possible or sustainable, a 1-meter distance is acceptable if the risks have been considered and mitigated. If you can’t achieve social distancing in your office space, flexible shift patterns, a mix of home working staggered start times and screens are a way to reduce the risk.
As with supermarkets, a one-way system and social distancing signage can also be beneficial to help us form social distancing habits. The longer the need for social distancing goes on, the easier it is to become lackadaisical so visual reminders and cues can be helpful.
Speak to your landlord, commercial agent or building proprietor. They might be able to help make your space safer e.g. Better ventilation, a scale floor plan of your space, stud walls and risk assessments for common areas.
A clean desk policy will be more important than ever to set out hygiene expectations. In order to do this successfully, consider storage such as lockers to ensure a safe personal space to store belongings and reduce contamination of surfaces.
Rearranging your office furniture will allow for social distancing and the position of the worker. Where possible discourage ‘face to face’ working or provide hygiene screens and physical barriers where this is not possible.
Set out your expectations
The office landscape is hard to navigate at the moment, but a clear and concise plan will always keep things on track. Regularly engaging with all members of your team (wherever they are working) can help to pave the way to a better way of working.
Involve your team to develop an inclusive way of working. Allow them to air their concerns and worries so that you can factor it into your phased return to work plans. We highly recommend using anonymous surveys, regular one to ones and ongoing WhatsApp chats to keep the camaraderie going.
Set out clear expectations for your team. Make sure procedures have been updated to reflect the current situation e.g. have emergency protocols been updated to enable social distancing at meeting points?
Try to limit visitors or create a protocol for when you have visitors to your office such as hand washing, dedicated delivery areas, PPE and adequate personal space.
Reminders and communication regarding when to get a test, when to self-isolate and when it’s safe to return to work can help to prevent infection.
For more information on keeping your offices safe, please regularly check the official UK government guidance. Please get in touch below if you need any advice on returning to your offices.