The balance between economics and public health and safety is a delicate one. A company’s greatest asset is its workforce and an office environment that protects employees also empowers them to do their best.
What short- and long-term workplace challenges and changes will companies have to consider to accommodate the return of employees to the office environment? Strict procedures will need to be implemented in all office workspaces and many companies are considering how to make their workplaces as safe as possible, whilst promoting productivity.
How is this realistically going to be achieved?
The office landscape will need to be seriously reconsidered to ensure employees’ safe return to the workplace following the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve put together a list of some of the steps you can take to ensure employees feel safe and protected when they return to work:
Workforce rotation: A skeleton office workforce would allow social distancing to be maintained and work colleagues to have a visual connection in ‘real-time’ to discuss work projects and socialise face to face. This will help with both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, boosting confidence and productivity.
Employers should also consider staggered start and finish times, to avoid areas becoming crowded.
Reconfiguring desks and furniture: The way we use office space is set to change. For example, more employees are likely to choose to work from home for at least part of the week. Fewer employees in the offices at any one time will allow furniture density to be reduced and layouts to change. This in turn will make it easier to practice social distancing.
Employers will also need to take into account their most vulnerable workers and may need to provide cubicles or working pods away from other workers.
Designated social areas: The creation of designated social areas should be considered. It has become very apparent that the office is not just where people go to work, it’s also where employees like to socialise and discuss projects and where new ideas are exchanged. These will need to be adapted to include physical distancing barriers or signs reminding employees that infection control is key to their workplace staying safe and open for business.
Fabrics and materials: Companies will need to invest in furniture with suitable fabrics and materials. There will be more of a trend towards easy-to-clean materials such as antimicrobial fabrics and worksurfaces with antibacterial properties that limit the spread of germs.
Addition of hygiene screens/sneeze guards: Hygiene screens (sometimes referred to as sneeze guards) act as barriers to safeguard the immediate space around employees, helping them to feel safe and protected in an open plan office environment. They can also be used for cabinets, conference tables and counters, to limit the transmissions of germs in the workplace.
Hygiene screens can be made from acrylic, glass or antimicrobial fabrics. Each option has its own advantages and all offer extra protection for the employee.
Air purifiers: To reduce the spread of viruses, dust and allergens, air purifiers can be incorporated into the workplace.
Automation: Your business could also explore ways of limiting the number of surfaces that are touched by multiple workers. E.g. using sensors instead of light switches and replacing manual entrance doors with automatic doors where possible.
A new workplace culture: To maintain everyday hygiene, employers should make antibacterial hand gel readily available for all employees and provide protective masks where appropriate. If a member of staff is exhibiting signs of a virus, they should actively be encouraged to stay at home and not return to the office until their symptoms have gone.
Common practices such as shaking someone’s hand or a kiss on the cheek at the start of a meeting will no longer be considered acceptable.
Adapt can help you prepare for many aspects of these changes. We offer various types of hygiene screen solutions, protective panels and desk pods with antimicrobial worksurfaces. To find out more about how we can help you maintain a safer workplace, please get in touch.
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