What can you do to ensure a safe return to the office? Based on Government advice, and using products from our extensive supplier network, we have assembled, in one place, all the guidance you need.
We’re all part of the videoconferencing revolution; use this technology to set up ‘back to the office’ sessions before re-opening. Ask your colleagues what they want and need; a transparent process will help to restore confidence, ensuring a safe and productive return to the office.
Health and Safety Advice
Review your Health & Safety Policy. It will probably need to be updated. An appropriate, implemented, policy will help to restore employee confidence and trust; it will also demonstrate due diligence, helping to protect your organisation from potential claims. Interion’s partner, Systems2 Consulting Ltd can help by reviewing existing documentation and providing updated policy documents. Expert Colin Bowyer will provide a free 15-minute telephone consultation. Call him on 07786 806162.
At the very least, prepare a COVID-19 Risk Assessment. You can prepare one using this HSE Guidance.
It is up to the management of each organisation to put into place reasonable and responsible measures to minimise the risks of cross-infection. The UK Government produces detailed advice to assist this process, which is updated regularly (so keep checking!)
We have provided links to the full current UK Government Advice, so will not repeat all details in this article. However, some further recommendations are detailed below:
Reworking the office?
Given that most offices are fitted out with structured/linked furniture components, and that at some future point things will return to ‘normal’, it makes little sense to undertake major physical changes. A combination of barriers, signage and process changes should satisfy the immediate needs of most office-based employers.
There has been much debate within the Interion team regarding the effectiveness of screens and barriers, particularly given other factors including travel to and from work. We are also concerned about what happens later – are we to create a Perspex landfill site?
Nonetheless, Government advice includes ‘Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other’. After extensive review, we have created a comprehensive product selector featuring the best of what is available, which also includes many other workplace safety and management solutions.
We have some suppliers willing to offer barrier screens on a ‘hire & collect’ basis, and we’re also discussing a ‘collect and recycle’ service with some trusted partners; COVID-19 does not remove our need to care for the environment!
Relatively economical and easy to remove at end of life, signage can take many forms. However, we have already heard of examples where floor-applied vinyl signage is lifting/wearing, so a more durable solution may be printed carpet tiles that can simply be swapped out with existing. For hard floor surfaces, consider mats.
Examples of floor tiles and entrance mat.
Please contact us for more information on appropriate signage and flooring solutions.
Arguably the greatest impact on workplace safety comes from process change. ‘Congestion points’ such as entry/exit points, reception areas and kitchen areas are particularly important, and it’s worth considering some form of screening for those entering a building – the first line of defence.
Solutions range from simple hand-held digital thermometers to temporary or fully integrated screening booths.
Clearly, the trend towards ‘hot desking’ is on hold; the last thing we need to encourage is sharing potentially contaminated worktops and equipment – ‘resident desking’ must be the new norm.
If you are following Government guidelines it’s likely that the office population will be much smaller in the short term, so it makes sense to use every other desk and avoid people sitting directly opposite one another – so, for example, a cluster designed for six people would accommodate three people in the short-term...
...which brings us back to home working. It is self-evident that more people will be working from home in the short term, and employers still have a duty of care. Employees should have a suitably ergonomic place to work; essentially a comfortable, adjustable chair and a work surface of appropriate height and size. We have assembled a collection to suit various styles and budgets, available for delivery to individual home addresses.Download the Interion Home Office Product Guide Here
If you have an air conditioning system, consider having the filters checked, and if necessary, replaced with HEPA-rated filters. You may wish to simply ‘turn down’ the airflow and humidity, reflecting the requirements of a smaller office population.
‘Temporary’ infrastructure items include hand sanitising stations, ‘one-way’ signage, contactless door openers, pedal activated bins – many featured in Interion’s Office Product Guide
The final word – why do we need to go back?
For a business to thrive and prosper, it must create profit through social cooperation; it must be more than a ‘sum of its parts’.
For this reason alone, we need to interact. As naturally social creatures, it is this direct social interaction that generates new ideas and innovations, driving growth and success.
Homeworking is not a long-term option – it may work for certain process-driven tasks, but in today’s knowledge-based economy, few jobs do not involve some degree of teamwork and creativity. So we may see more home working days in the longer term, but we cannot replace the natural ‘hub’ of the office.
Re-joining our colleagues should be something we look forward to, and there are plenty of tools and products to help us do so safely