From 1 August, the government changed its guidance about people working from home. It has now advised employers to be more flexible, enabling people to safely return to the office if and when required. In a recent survey of our customers, we found that many are looking to adopt more flexible working and split their time between the office and home.
60% surveyed said they had missed the social side of work and having the face to face collaborations that can’t quite be replicated through a screen. So with some trepidation about returning the office, we wanted to understand what respondents’ employers were doing to pandemic-proof their workspaces so people can get back to work and enjoy the perks of office life.
Always be sure to follow the official government’s advice so your office is fit for purpose and taking all the necessary precautions against the spread of COVID.
Social distancing is still one of the most effective ways to keep your team safe. The government recommends a distance of two metres but has slightly relaxed this recently so where this isn’t possible, a distance of at least one metre must be observed. Many of our respondents reported that they were reducing their desk space, some down to a third of previous capacity, to maintain social distancing.
From removing desks completely, turning them round to all face the same way to cordoning off whole areas with hazard tape, it’s clear that business are doing what they can to maintain distance. Some offices are also introducing booking systems to manage numbers in the office, introducing one-way routes, limiting the number of people in lifts and limiting visitors and meetings.
People must continue to practise good hygiene at all times to prevent the virus from spreading and we found that many businesses have helped to make this easier for their teams in a number of ways. They’ve introduced portable handwash stations, placed hand sanitiser dispensers around the office and some teams are given their own personal workspace wellbeing pack to keep with them so they can maintain hand hygiene and also us a sanitiser spray on their personal desk space. Antibacterial touch screens that form a hygienic barrier have been put in place on things like lift buttons and coffee machine fronts. Of course, increasing the frequency and effectiveness of cleaning was reported by many. Switching traditional cleaners for specialist antibacterial sanitising cleaners are helpful and for an even deeper clean, ULV fogging machines can spray entire areas killing 99.9999% of pathogens. Screens, or ‘sneeze guards’ have also been introduced to protect people so face to face contact can safely occur.
It’s going to take time for people to adapt to a new way of operating in the office due to COVID, so it’s helpful to communicate with people about what’s expected of them. Strong leadership during this period of adjustment is crucial in helping to give people the confidence they need to work safely back in the office. Our survey discovered that almost all businesses are introducing clear signage around the office as reminders for people to socially distance, practice good hand hygiene and not to touch their faces. Also, floor stickers or floor tiles have been placed around workspaces to encourage people to stay 2m apart at all times.
Others reported an increase in communications via email or video calls from management so people are being regularly kept up to date on office updates or any changes in government advice – all of which help to build trust within the team and keeps the company culture strong.
Flexibility and support
Through all of this, flexibility and the willingness to adapt quickly has been key in how businesses have reacted. Our respondents said that a flexible approach was helpful so they didn’t feel pressured to work in the office if they didn’t feel comfortable. Many people will likely find a balance between working from home and working in the office, so its important employers support that where possible.
When we asked how people felt about returning to the office, a large proportion noted their concerns over the daily commute which is something businesses should consider. Some were anxious about using public transport again, so a wellbeing commute pack can prove helpful to give your team a little support. Others noted that their premises were multi-tenanted so they had concerns about sharing workspace with businesses that may not have made the necessary steps to keep people safe. The traffic was also a bone of contention and people were not looking forward to a long car journey which adds hours back on to their working days. Take the time to find out what your team needs and then do your best to help them feel safe and supported while continuing to get the best out of them.
Most of our respondents (78%) said they’d like to spend at least half their working time in the office in the future given the choice, with 15% saying they’d want to be entirely office-based. In fact, only one person said they’d prefer to be working from home full-time.
With workers itching to get back into the office for at least a portion of their time, but with the pandemic ongoing, we expect many businesses to adopt a flexible, agile approach to working, where people will enjoy a mix of working from home and working in the office. Health and hygiene will, of course, remain the number one priority for offices to ensure that teams feel safe and secure in returning to work.
We’re here to help!
What are you doing to pandemic-proof your workspace? We have a range of products and solutions to help you, but please do let us know what you need – we love to hear from you! Our friendly team is just a call away and we’re ready to help support you and your team safely get back to the office.