As the government has announced a new road map for gradually easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the race is on to re-open businesses previously classified as ‘non-essential’ as quickly as possible.
Under the latest guidelines, companies can now call staff back into their head offices if supporting remote working is impractical or unsustainable. However, it has been made clear that both workplace hygiene and office layouts must be subject to in-depth reviews and updates.
Responding quickly to the challenges of infection control - and the post-pandemic business landscape – means bringing staff back safely, but also in a way that boosts their confidence and makes them productive. According to a TUC
survey, around 39 per cent of workers were expressing concern about safe distancing from their colleagues even before the sudden return to work announcement.
What is required from office layouts? - There is now a heightened demand for business environments in which social distancing is paramount. Not just within shielded or well-spaced work stations either. Desk arrangements with antibacterial
privacy screens, seating and other office equipment must be laid out to support ease of movement around offices. This will reduce the chance of employees walking too close together, or clustering (deliberately or inadvertently).
Nor is hot-desking something that is encouraged. Instead, companies are being urged to create personal
work areas for individual employees to limit transmission of the coronavirus on hard surfaces.
These social distancing measures in office environments fly in the face of modern office layout trends. For years, the emphasis has been on creating multi-purpose seating areas for example and using every square foot of space for condensing work arrangements, to lower the cost of running admin centres.
How can you make offices safer for returning staff? - The solutions to social distancing in offices will clearly require creativity, and access to office furniture companies who can quickly innovate, and offer viable, cost-effective options.
For example, open plan office areas will have to be speedily transformed into well-shielded work ‘pods’
, while collaborative and conference seating will need to be well spaced out, or possibly replaced with sit stand desks
that also feature shields of some sort.
As companies will be obliged to invest in more technology – to support dispersed workforces, video conferencing
and other digital workplace developments – office environments will also need to be amended to accommodate more devices, in an intelligent and productive manner.
Lastly, reception areas and staff entrance foyers will need to be altered to incorporate infection control measures, including dispensers and waste disposal systems for touch-free sanitising gel and masks, as well as behavioural signage to explain professional distancing standards.
Help with social distancing in offices - Each trade body is, no doubt, continuing to prepare guidelines and suggestions to get companies up and working in the new era of contamination control. Meanwhile, feel free to contact us here at Office Reality
if you need some help visualising your office space for a safe return to the workplce.