The Covid-19 crisis has brought office safety into sharp focus. It’s not just the obvious physical hazards that we now all need to pay attention to, it’s unseen threats that have previously been less considered. Even with the most exacting hygiene standards, workplaces have always been places where viruses have been able to spread. In the past, those viruses might well have been mild and inconvenient rather than potentially life-threatening.
As the workforce moves back into the office and blended working is managed, there’s a need to ensure that transmission risk is kept low. Employees need to feel confident that the workplace is safe, and the chances of a potentially costly office outbreak need to be kept to an absolute minimum.
Here are a few tips to help you embed safe working practices in your office.
Keep following government guidelines
Employers have a responsibility to keep fully informed about evolving government guidance. The UK government and devolved administrations publish the latest advice to employers on their respective websites. The current government guidance is that it’s now possible to return to office-based working (as of July 2020). If you don’t feel you can safely return to office working, then it’s not unreasonable to continue with remote working. You should take all the available information into account, and then make a decision based on the best interests of your business and employee welfare.
Experiment with blended working
A middle way between remote working and full office attendance is mixed or blended working. This involves employees splitting their time between working from home and the office. Fewer numbers in the office make it easier to social distance.
Don’t re-open the office until there’s been a deep clean
Before you re-open the office a full deep clean of the premises should take place. As well as starting on a fresh page, it will give your employees confidence that you’re serious about their health and safety.
Place social distancing stickers on the floor
Rigorous social distancing in an office might not always be possible, but by promoting it you can bring about lasting behavioural change that reduces infection risk. Social distancing stickers on the floor and other prominent items such as office technology act as a reminder of the need to keep at least 1 metre apart. Evidence suggests that it eventually becomes second nature.
Instigate a one-way system
Introduce a one-way system through the office, and make sure it’s clearly signposted. If possible, keep some distance between workstations and the principal routes through the office.
Provide employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where necessary
Any employees who are feeling particularly vulnerable, or who have public-facing roles, could be provided with PPE. This will give them extra confidence and help to reduce the risk of transmission. Fabric face masks do not eliminate risk entirely, but current thinking is they can help to reduce transmission rates when worn by the entire workforce.
Provide hand sanitisers and other cleanliness reminders
Hand sanitisers should be provided at every workstation, by doors, and at the entrance to the office. Employees should be encouraged to sanitise their hands thoroughly several times a day.
Consider the extra needs of staff who use public transport
Employees who have no option but to use public transport may have extra concerns about returning to the office. What facilities will you provide them with to help them feel more secure, such as washing and changing facilities? Could they be encouraged to work from home and be given extra help to facilitate this? Reducing the number of interactions that employees have between the office and home reduces the overall office risk of infection.
The movement back to the office is likely to be a process rather than an event. This gives everyone the chance to adjust to new working practices. By embedding healthy practices that reduce the risk of infection, they can rapidly become the new normal.
For further advice about designing your office space so that it is Covid-19 compliant and safer for all your people, speak to our expert team at Flow today.