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Planning a return to the office after Covid-19 lockdown

With the increasing uncertainty that our economy currently finds itself in, and that unfortunately we simply cannot “carry on regardless”, well not in its traditional sense anyway. Companies are increasingly finding themselves in a situation of paralysis by analysis and I am not quite sure whether this is due to employers taking their duty of care for their team so seriously (I would hope) or it is due to the foggy and sometimes downright confusing information from the government that seems to be changing on a half hourly basis.

So getting to the task in hand, we thought it would be beneficial to our clients and social media audience if we were to put together a 101 in office prep for getting you team back to work with at least some sense of normality.

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With the increasing uncertainty that our economy currently finds itself in, and that unfortunately we simply cannot “carry on regardless”, well not in its traditional sense anyway. Companies are increasingly finding themselves in a situation of paralysis by analysis and I am not quite sure whether this is due to employers taking their duty of care for their team so seriously (I would hope) or it is due to the foggy and sometimes downright confusing information from the government that seems to be changing on a half hourly basis.

So getting to the task in hand, we thought it would be beneficial to our clients and social media audience if we were to put together a 101 in office prep for getting you team back to work with at least some sense of normality.

Well the first question we should be pondering is should we even be going back into the offices at all?

It’s a funny one really and I supposed it will all be down to each team member’s  individual comfort levels and also the functionality of the job roll this is a case of one size most definatly does not fit all. You as a business owner are legally obliged to take every precaution within your power to keep your team healthy and happy at work.

With the additional safety measures, we heard from the government on the evening of the 12th of October we now also need to take into consideration the different at risk areas and additionally the at risk members of the team. This very nicely leads me onto the next point which is get a pan in place a risk assessment you know what they say prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Prep Prep and a bit more Prep

Confidently inviting your team back into the place of work knowing you have done everything in your power to give them a safe workplace with as much of a reduced infection risk as possibly is not only now a legal obligation but it shows your team that they are a value member and that you care about their safety.

We have a few suggestions as to areas that you can consider adjusting to allow for a safer workspace.

  • Reduce the numbers

For the last god know how many years we have been asked to design a workspace that can hold as any bottoms on seats as possible but in this situation we have been asked by a number of our clients as to how we can allow teams to return safely when thy work in such close proximity to each other.

The answer to this pain point will not always be a popular choice among employers but we very much feel that it is a necessity FLEXI-TIME.

It is a concept that has been around for a very long time and companies that have embraced it have found its benefits to be phenomenal and that they far outweigh the downsides.

Now the biggest downside is that you no longer have all of your team under one roof at the same time, but you see this is something that we can now play to our advantage. With a little careful logistical planning and everyone knowing what is going on when it can not only reduce the risk of infection within your workplace but additionally make for a much happier and intern productive workforce.

  • Coviscreen

Well if we are going to be all inclusive about this any anti covid sneeze guard will do but obviously we and our clients all agree that we collectively believe that the Coviscreen is the dogs doodahs.

Particularly for businesses such as call centres and busy offices where your business relies on lots of bottoms on seats to answer phone calls or to be prepping legal documents that have tight deadlines the Coviscreen can be a game changer.

  • Space planning

“Sometimes a change of view can be as good as something new”. We are experts in space planning and although we are now looking at where we can give areas of work a little extra room rather than fitting an extra one in its all the same, its all about a little bit of thinking outside the box.

  • The Ikea method

I do not know about you but every shop that I go in over the last few months has turned to the Ikea method, we all conform and follow those little yellow arrows round. As annoying as this may seem it massively cuts the infection risk as everyone is going the same direction so can easily keep to the 1 metre rule without much hassle so maybe consider implementing a 1 way system in your pace of work too.

  • Protect your personal space

Social distancing is not optional it is necessity and should be treated so by each member of your team. Policing this like a 1950’s sports mistress may not always be the best way to encourage your team’s involvement but positive training and a gentle nudge in the form of signage and emails would most certainly help.

  • Sanitisation stations

There are now tonnes of different products out on the market with lots of the more high end cosmetics and health related brands jumping on the back of the massive influx in demand for things such as hand gel, masks etc but it really doesn’t need to be that swish.

Keeping your hands clean and sanitised is a must so we would always suggest having hand sanitizer available for your team, I personally carry it around with me and it would not be unusual to see me slathering it on my shopping trolly handle but really it is better to be safe than sorry.

Masks, now this can be a little bit of a controversial topic especially when having to wear them all day I know first-hand that it is not ideal when you wear gasses like I do. There are various alternatives on the market such as face shields and a vast selection of masks in different styes and fabrics but I would always have a box of the disposable medical masks just in case you have a member of your team that forgets to bring one.

Spray, wipe and dispose it really can be that simple. Whether you prefer the disposable wipes or a antibacterial spray and a disposable cloth it is entirely up to you but either way I would highly recommend having an abundance of them hanging around the workplace. It takes just a couple of seconds to wipe over a surface but it can mean the difference between picking up the dreaded covid an not.

  • Washroom

This is a bit of a logistics situation, depending on how big your washroom is and how big your team is then that will also directly effect the way that you would attack this particular pain point.

We have found that the biggest issue is the lay out and in particular the entrance and exit. Generally speaking the majority of businesses will only have one door to be used as both the entrance and exit to the washroom, in order to adhere to social distancing measures.

We have advised clients in this case to limit the number of people in the washroom to two, to block off every other urinal and cubicle, to have plenty of hand sanitiser, to up the occasions of inspection/ cleaning and finally we have also advised a face mask must be worn in the washroom policy.

  • Training

We are firm believers that knowledge is power and in this case especially. From our experience team members can be reluctant to follow rules unless they understand why it would benefit them to follow such rules.

At this point we are advising all clients to initially view the government guidelines and start the training process with the guidelines that are directly related to the particular industry that you work within.

You can check these out on the below links, we have picked out some specific industries that may relate to you.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/construction-and-other-outdoor-work
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/labs-and-research-facilities
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/vehicles

With any major lifestyle change it takes time to adjust and get into the flow of how things work so we would always advise that training and making sure that lines of communication are very much open are key to getting this right and fighting this pandemic.

Bearing in mind that this situation is changing on sometimes what feels like a day by day basis we have been advising clients that putting a plan in place is very much the first step but also that it needs to be continually reassessed and kept up to date inline with the advice given to us via gov.uk.

Having that strong belief that you as a business owner are doing everything in your power to not only keep your team safe and healthy but in turn keeping your business as active as humanly possible in this bazar situation is something that will allow your business to stay resilient.

Just lastly we are not scientists or medical professionals we are just another tight knit team trying to keep our business thriving and assisting our clients wherever we can to do the same. We hope you have enjoyed this article and have found it to be interesting and if there is anything we can do for you to assist you to getting your team back up and running then please do give us a shout.

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