Back to work after Covid!
Covid-19 turned the world upside down. Millions of employees around the world were faced with new and daunting challenges. In a few weeks time, both employees and employers had to work their way through new standards, such as remote working, without losing sight of business continuity or the well-being of employees. Not an easy task for many!
Fortunately, the end of the pandemic is now in sight but companies are now struggling with the question of how to plan their employees' return to the office. And also how to communicate this and guide their employees with new guidelines and policies to maintain the health of both the employees and the company.
For many organisations, implementing an effective outcome starts with frontline staff. These include the IT department, the HR department, and the facilities and service teams. These teams face the logistical challenge of planning and implementing new ways of working that balance business continuity and employee safety - now and in the months ahead.
Here are 10 tips that can help!
1. Physical distance remains paramount
Employees who need to be in the office regularly use the now largely empty office floor to maintain physical distance. You can maintain this distance by allocating seats in your current office layout and thus complying with the latest recommendations for safe physical distance.
2. Plan phased scenarios for return to work
If a limited number of seats are available, you can plan a phased return to work based on role criteria. The time frame between each group's gradual return can be based on the need and ongoing health of the employees. There is also space management software that allows employees to visualise which seats are available for occupation at floor, area or department level.
3. Identify key employees
Although many employees have switched to working from home, for some people remote working is not possible due to the nature of their job or for security reasons. Some of these people may still go to the office or may be among the first employees to return to work gradually. It is therefore important to determine which employees will actually need to be in the office, in order to draw up a phased plan for their return to work.
4. Reconfigure flexible spaces
If you have to reduce your usual office space to half its capacity in order to comply with distance regulations, the use of conference rooms, focus rooms, meeting rooms and relaxation areas can offer a solution. They can be used as additional seating and increase the number of staff in the office, while maintaining the physical distance. When employees return to the office, these spaces are used again to work together in a safe manner. By clearly indicating which seats respect physical distance and removing excess seats, users can better adhere to the guidelines.
5. Reconsider the use of free seating.
Choosing your own workplace usually works on the basis of who gets to the office first. The immediate concern with these types of workplaces is cleanliness and cross-contamination from multiple people sharing desks. These spaces may need to be used differently until the COVID-19 threat passes. To limit the spread of germs, you can assign desks to certain people for a certain period of time. If the desks are occupied alternately on different days or weeks, it is of utmost importance that the plan is clearly communicated to the cleaning services so that the staff can be confident that the desks have been disinfected.
6. Keep track of who sits where
Knowing who sits at which desk and the likely circulation routes of those individuals throughout the day can support a targeted cleaning response if a worker shows symptoms, and also indicate other workers assigned to the same area. It is therefore important to have a clear overview of this in the event of a possible contamination.
7. Work in shifts
This approach allows more people to use the workplace per shift. With clearly allocated desks, physical distance can be maintained for those working the same shift, while over time the office becomes accessible to a larger number of employees. It also allows your facility department to plan their cleaning schedule. Shifts can take place on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the needs and goals of each organisation.
8. Designate isolation rooms
In the event that an employee begins to show symptoms, organisations should be able to isolate anyone who is showing symptoms. Designating and communicating rooms so that every manager and employee knows their location and purpose is necessary to ensure employee well-being. An isolation room can be any type of enclosed space. Special cleaning protocols should be considered in these areas, ideally with special ventilation or negative air pressure to further limit the exposure of others in the vicinity.
9. Plan and communicate cleaning regimes
With cleanliness in mind for people returning to work, organisations should plan, communicate and enforce cleaning regimes to both support services and employees. By defining which areas are assigned to workers and when, cleaning services can better prioritise their work.
10. Implement screening for admission to the office
To reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 being brought into the office, companies are implementing mandatory screening protocols for all employees each day before they enter the office. The screening questions range from travel related questions to health symptoms. The results of the screening will indicate whether the person should enter the workplace each day or stay at home.
As we move forward in the coming months and plan for the return to the office,
we hope that these considerations can help balance business continuity and the safety of employees around the world.
We believe that every organisation should have the necessary tools to plan for safety and success in these uncertain times, and BluePoint is happy to help.
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