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We’ve been thrown into a mass of uncertain times over the past few months and all over the world, people have struggled, businesses have closed and a global pandemic seems to have brought people closer than ever. In terms of working lives, so many people have been furloughed while others have taken to working from their home. But after months of isolation and a countrywide lockdown, we seem to be emerging from the other side of all of this. Some businesses are going to have a difficult few months as they scramble for work and rebuild their operations and it’s those businesses that need support during this time to steady the economy and provide stable incomes for their employees.

Rhodes image 6 from aci

Should we be back in the office?

Answering this question for everyone is impossible, there is no ‘one size fits all’ for this decision. This takes time to consider, weighing up the risks and figuring out the best ways to mitigate them is such an important part of the process. As a business owner, you have such a responsibility and so you’re obliged to take every precaution within your power to make sure that all of your staff are safe and healthy at work.

If you end up make the decision to return to your office but you’re unsure of how to make it a safe space to work, we’re here to help you out. The following offers some advice that we wanted to share with those struggling with their return to the office. This is just a few tips, but please add to your plans as you see fit.

Step 1: Plan the safety measures

Being able to say that you have done all that you can to make sure that you’re employees are safe and looked after should be a point of pride to a business owner, office manager and anyone else involved. By making sure that you’ve put everything in place, you can mitigate all sorts of risks and upset in the office. Whether you do this through the office layout, purchasing new equipment to improve safety or supply the necessary masks and hand sanitiser, looking back and knowing you’ve done the best job possible is better than wishing you had done more. In any case, here are a few of our recommendations

1. Limit the returnees

One of the biggest pain points that you might face is the possibility that you might not be able to fit everyone in the office all at the same time while trying to adhere to a socially distanced environment. In this case, you could think about choosing which members of the team come back to the office and deciding who is able to work from home a little longer. By doing this, you’re likely to find a few people that can function perfectly well at home, these could be your marketing team, a sales rep or even a few members of your development team. Whatever kind of business you have, this could be a vital part of protecting your staff.

Other people like the office managers, assistants and even the security team are more likely to be needed in the office and around the office so that they can support and help everyone else.

Rota from aci

2. Office rota

If you find that you need more and more people to be in the office, creating a rota for people to follow could be the answer. Having an office attendance rota would mean that you can assign certain members of your teams to certain days of the week. They can then come into your office and continue with their work as normal. This could promote an improved line of communication between individuals and teams too on any given day and increase productivity after lockdown.

This rota could be scheduled weekly after members of staff request certain days to collaborate with other departments or individuals so that they can better fulfil their roles.

3. Screens

Depending on the type of business you run, the installation of screens and other protective equipment could make or break your efforts to create a safe space. If you own a high street shop, for example, it’s likely that people will want to get out of the house and enjoy the ‘normal’ side of life. Introducing a shop-screen/ sneeze-guard could help to make both employees and shoppers feel a little safer during their time out.

Space planning header new 1 from aci

4. Office layout

If you have a spacious office with room to move in, you’re already a little better off. You can have the opportunity to change the layout of your office to accommodate a socially distanced workplace and better protect your staff. You should be able to move desks around and rearrange your office furniture to suit and accommodate the change that you need to make.

This might require a little help, there are so many intricacies to space planning and so we’d be more than happy to work with you to design a new office layout for your workspace.

4a. Travel routes

Something that could make your life so much easier in the office, a shop floor or even a warehouse is a one-way travel system. We’ve seen this kind of thing implemented in shops already but by bringing it to the office, we could eliminate potential cross overs and unnecessary contact. This is also tying into social distancing and making sure that everyone can comfortably move around the office without having to invade Canyon else’s space.

Hot desk from aci

4b. Hot desks

Hot design goes well with the idea that you can rota out days or weeks that teams can be in the office. This means that you can have a set number of desks that are all socially distanced and follow appropriate precautions. However, this will need to maintained and clean regularly so that there is very little to no chance of cross-contamination between employees.

5. Desk separators

As a bare minimum, if you aren’t able to shift your office around to align with a socially distanced protocol, the addition of desk partitions/ screens sound be a serious consideration. Only bring back those that have to be there and use these desk screens to ensure another level of safety for your staff.

6. Social distancing

Social distancing has been mentioned throughout this post, it’s one of the most recommended acts during this time and can help to prevent or lessen the chances of spreading germs. We feel that it’s imperative to keep your employees away from each other as best you can, but offer room for communication too. Being in the same room as each other will allow for an open line of communication and promote workflow, but this has to come with the acceptable distance between them. This is a no brainer and shouldn’t be overlooked.

7. Cleaning and supplies

As an employer, you’re obligated to ensure that your staff as safe at all times. At the moment, being safe means having cleaning supplies on hand at all times. You should be supplying;

  • Masks
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Antibacterial wipes (disposable)

While having these supplies at the ready, having a regimented cleaning schedule on hand so that you’re able to keep your office as free as possible to continents is key. You’ll need to be on top of your cleaning, whether you’re getting someone in every night or over the weekend.

Washroom toilet from aci

8. Toilet & washroom systems

Regulating toilet policies is often a tricky undertaking, but it’s an essential part of keeping the office and your employees safe. If you have a multiple occupancy washroom/ toilet, there are a few things that you could put into place. In the men’s toilet, blocking off every other urinal can help to distance people while they’re in use. Having notices up in the toilets outlining guidelines of use, cleaning rules and handwashing protocols can help to keep any sort of spread to a minimum.

Step 2: Training and readjustment periods

But putting together a training period for your employees to learn how best to conduct themselves and conform to your guidelines, you’re able to educate and collaborate on the best ways to say safe. Making sure that you’re educating not only your employees but also yourself means that you’re protecting everyone involved including your business.

Training from aci

1. Training plan

Put together a training plan for your employees to look into. This can include anything from the above ideas and anything else that you can think of. Make sure that you’re reviewing the Government’s advice too, there may be some specific advice for your industry!

In your training plan, you should be tailoring everything that you can to your business, there is no one size fits all with this kind of preparation. With that in mind, look at the .gov website and choose the right kind of service that you offer.

Here are a few resources that look at specific advice depending on the locations and sectors that you work in;

2. Readjustment periods

Having a clear readjustment period will mean that you can keep watch on those that are struggling to get back into the swing of things or find it hard to cope with the new rules you’ve put in place. You’ll be able to see how is capable, how you can build a support network and how people are reacting to getting back to the norm.

2a. Slow introduction

Within this period you might want to be slightly lenient on your employees and make sure that you’re able to help them transition back into work. This might mean that you offer more time for projects and works, you may even decide to lower the workload on everyone as you guide them back to work. Whatever the case is, making sure you’re helping employees is likely to benefit everyone involved, including the business.

2b. Pet rota

An interesting idea is to trial having a pet-friendly office (or part of the office) so that staff can bring their pets with them to work on a scheduled basis while both employee and pet adjust to the normal lifestyle of home/work balance. It’s possible that our animals and pets will become distressed by the fact that we aren’t around them all the time anymore. Often this could have an effect on your team members and so they might not be performing at their optimal level. To combat this, having a pet brought for a few weeks on a rota may help to ease that problem.

This will all have to align with allergy policies and so making sure everyone is comfortable with the idea is the first port of call.

Step 3: Implement and Regulate

After you’ve put all of the work into planning for your return to the office and training your staff, be sure to stay up to date and enforce your new guides. Feeling usage at work is one of the worst things you can do to your staff and so, you need to make sure that you’re keeping everyone inline and ensure that they’re following your rules. If they aren’t, they are putting not only theirs, but everyone and their families lives at risk too. It’s worth making this plainly clear to everyone so that they understand the ramifications of their actions.

Implement everything

After you’ve shown everyone through the proper training and you have a plan in place and completed all of the prep work, it’s time to start moving people back into the office. With this in mind, after you’ve passed that initial adjustment period, it will be time to become a little harder on those who aren’t following the rules.

That means you need to be vigilant, catch people fore they do any real damage to themselves or others so that you can either educate them or caution them on their behaviour.

Government updates from aci

Stay up to date

Once you have implemented your plans and everyone is following the rules properly, your next step is to have your ear to the ground constantly. Keeping up to date with the latest recommendations from the government is key because this could either start to go away or it could come back. No one can predict exactly what will happen just yet. The government website is the best place to stay up to date with their suggestions and new rules. Using the previous links to the .gov website, you should be able to find any new information about the best practices for your business.

If you know of a reliable source or media outlet, you can always sign up to their newsletters or alerts so that you can get the right information as soon as it comes out without having to manually check for changes regularly. Whatever you do, make sure that you’re in line with the latest guidelines and laws to protect your staff, yourself and your business.

In summary

All you can do as a business owner is to make the right decisions and try to keep people safe. If you make a point of doing that, you’re likely to be okay.  But, staying vigilant and aware of when is going on is important and so in your efforts to bring back your employees to the office so that you can continue to develop your business can be make or break.

Making a solid plan that can easily be implemented across any offices that you have is a must and in doing so, you may even find room for improvements when transitioning back to normal. We know that this might cause some difficulties in the office and so by working on a plan, involving employees and coving all pain points, you should be able to mitigate most of the stress associated.

Everything that we’ve outlined in this guide is just a few tips and tricks that we think can be helpful. With that in mind, we would urge you to consider working remotely if you can. If that isn’t possible, make sure that you are staying up to date with the recommended best practices in your industry using the links above. Most importantly, stay safe and well…

If you need any support in the way of office design, tips for layout or specialist equipment and furniture, please feel free to give us a call on 0115 939 7572!