There is no firm date as to when work from home guidance may change for those who are able to. Yet, it is likely that as an employer you are looking to the future and anticipating office changes needed to meet Covid-19 guidelines. Not only to ensure safety for employees but to also inspire confidence in employees to make the return to the workplace.
It is likely that many changes will be needed to offices to make your workplace Covid secure – a phrase being used by the government in relation to the return to work.
The government has published specific working safely during Coronavirus guidance for those who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments. So, it is important to refer to this to ensure that you adhere to all government guidance as and when you are preparing your office for the return to work.
What could new office working practices look like?
Reconfiguration of office spaces
Social distancing will most likely continue to be important for some time yet. So, offices will need to be reconfigured with this in mind. Government advice states that a key objective will be maintaining 2m distance between people where possible. Including upon arrival and departure from work, while in work and when travelling between sites.
Desks may need to be placed further from each other, or desks left free to create a 2m gap between workers. It may be necessary to implement one-way systems to avoid any bottlenecks or large crowds of people gathering. Communal areas may need to be closed off or the number of people who can use them at one time strictly limited and monitored.
Large meetings are likely to be a thing of the past for some time, so meeting room configurations are likely to need to change if you are going to encourage group work.
Sneeze guards, hand washing stations, hand sanitiser points could all be features of offices. As well as needing to find ways to minimise contact points – door handles, light switches, shared desks etc.
Workplaces will most likely need to display posters and regular reminders about the importance of good hygiene, good hand washing procedures and the need to wash hands more frequently.
Communal changing areas or showers will need additional focus if they are open to staff.
Changes to the working day and week
Many of us have typically worked a 9-5 day. All arriving at the office and departing at roughly the same time. Yet this approach doesn’t lend itself well to social distancing. Especially for those who work in tall office blocks and may need to make use of lifts, or those who need to make use of public transport to get to the office.
So, as well as changes to the physical office, it is likely employees will also see changes to their working patterns. Staggered working hours, or even staggered working weeks could become a feature of working life, as could continued working from home.
This could be even more relevant to those who have many employees who travel to work using public transport. This is likely to create a more challenging situation as the government continue to urge people to avoid use of public transport wherever possible.
Why will it be vital for employers to follow office cleaning guidelines for Covid-19?
Taking cleaning and hygiene seriously will also be vital in office environments. As in all environments where many people are present. Not only can Coronavirus be passed from person to person. But it can also survive on surfaces for a period of time. Creating risk for contamination and spreading of the virus.
With many surfaces in offices – desks, keyboards, telephones, door handles, bathrooms etc cleaning will be vital to minimise risk to employees.
It is likely that regular deep cleans will be required. Using government approved cleaning products. And government approved cleaning guidelines.
Some of the key areas you will need to consider will include:
- Sufficient PPE must be worn by those doing the cleaning
- Ensure communal areas and areas of high traffic are focussed on
- Cleaning requirements will be more stringent if an individual with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus has been present
Again, refer to government guidance on cleaning the workplace for details of the processes and procedures you will need to follow.
In fact, it will important to check government guidance on a regular basis as advice changes as the situation develops
There is no doubt that we are in a very different place to when lockdown began. Many individuals have been working from home for 9-10 weeks already and may have acclimatised to this new way of working. Many will be seeing savings in commuting costs, gaining time back to spend with family or on new hobbies and feeling safer from the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
Whilst for some the return to the office is likely to be a welcome one, bear in mind that this may not be the case across the whole of your workforce. Having the ability to encourage employees back into the workplace and ensure their wellbeing is going to be a big focus for employers and something which shouldn’t be overlooked in the bid to safeguard office environments from Covid-19.
If your building has been unoccupied for a prolonged period during the Coronavirus, you will also need to give thought to managing risk when it comes to reopening your building.
At Anthony Jones, we are updating our blog on a regular basis with information relating to Coronavirus and areas we think will be useful for small business owners. We are also open and working so if you have any questions about a current business insurance policy or want to discuss future insurance needs then do contact us in the usual ways.