Everything you need to go back to work

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.

Communication

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.


Government Guidelines

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!)

Take the following measures:

  • Review/implement the advice and download/display the compliance poster in appropriate communal areas.
  • Enable working from home as the first option
  • Make ‘every reasonable effort’ to keep people 2m apart
  • Increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • Keep the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Use back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).
  • If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
  • In your assessment, consider whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Staying Covid Secure

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:

  • Stagger arrival and departure times at work
  • Provide additional parking or facilities such as bike-racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible
  • Reduce congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the workplace
  • Providing more storage for workers for clothes and bags
  • Use markings and introduce one-way flow at entry and exit points
  • Provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers where not possible, at entry/exit points (not using touch-based security devices such as keypads)
  • Define process alternatives for entry/exit points. For example, deactivate turnstiles requiring pass checks in favour of showing a pass to security personnel at a distance
  • Introduce more one-way flow through buildings
  • Reduce maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible. (Make sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts)
Social distancing in lifts

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.

Barriers

Barriers

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.

Download the Interion Office Product Guide Here

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!

Signage

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.

Floor tile
Floor tile
Entrance Mat

Examples of floor tiles and entrance mat.

Please contact us for more information on appropriate signage and flooring solutions.

Process Change

Process Change

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...


Home Working

Senator Home Desk A
Senator Home Desk B

...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

Infrastructure

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.

Wearing masks at desk

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

If you need any further help or advice returning to work, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Interion 15 Clerkenwell Close London EC1R 0AA

info@interion.co.uk

+44(0)20 3815 9400