With so much speculation regarding the easing of lockdown during the COVID-19 outbreak, many businesses will be thinking about options that need to be implemented in the workplace with the safety and well-being of employees at the forefront of their minds. Whether that be working from home, introducing staggered working shifts, or enhancing cleaning and safety measures.
For those businesses where office life will need to resume to continue business operations, the challenge lies in how to adapt workplaces. The idea of open plan working might now need to be reconsidered with more of a closed plan layout. Partitions will become a popular solution to divide departments, and the use of protective screens will no doubt be high in demand to ensure employees feel safe and protected.
Some businesses will want to go beyond this and look at redesigning their current floor plan. Looking at individual workstations, one-way hallways, partition gangways and entrances, and new furniture such as vinyl fabric chairs for easy cleaning.
It is not just the physical aspects of a return to work that must be considered, mentally staff will need to prepare and feel safe and supported in order to make a smooth return to the workplace. The most important factor here is most definitely communication, reach out to your staff with a phonecall or a survey and gauge how they are feeling about the return to work. If you already know the worries that your staff have before you plan changes to your office you can combat these issues within the changes/new design that you implement. Morale may have suffered in this period of uncertainty with certain staff perhaps being furloughed whilst others continue to work remotely, this means it is key to try and boost morale as staff return. Consider team-building ideas that can be done over zoom calls. You can still have ‘cake Fridays’ but perhaps everyone bakes at home and connects for a cuppa and a chat at 11 am!
The extent to which you can introduce social distancing within your workplace will depend largely on the size of your office space and the nature of the work. If your staff sit close to one another in small office sections then it would be wise to plan a rota where only one staff member is in each section at a time. If you can go one step further to ensure it is only ever that same person coming in and using that particular area then this will reduce the need for cleaning and disinfecting between staff members.
The use of communal kitchen areas should really be prohibited and instead, staff should bring food and drinks that can be consumed at their desks so that they are not using shared facilities. With bathrooms, cleaning regimes should be stepped up and all staff should be regularly reminded of the importance of washing their hands regularly.
The passing of paperwork is a risk that should be minimised where possible by keeping work online and sharing versions for other staff members to view, edit, or file. If you office space is currently open plan then the use of partitions can help you to quickly and affordably break the space up into individual sections. Having physical sections laid out with partitions will help staff to remember the importance of staying at least two metres apart.
For those workplaces open to the public or visitors such as car garages, schools, shops or anywhere with a reception desk, it is important to create a barrier between your staff and those coming in from outside.
No matter what the nature of your business is, you will likely need to invest in some protective equipment in order to make your workplace safe during COVID-19. As mentioned partitions are an easy fix for creating separate sections and with different materials such as glass, perspex, and vinyl making them easy to disinfect and wipe clean regularly. These partitions are not always large ‘walls’ for creating smaller office sections, you can also source smaller ‘isolation desk screens’. These temporary desktop surround screens are an ideal solution for helping keep employees safe while working at their desks. Acrylic and
fabric solutions are available that are anti-bacterial. For those public-facing areas such as counters or reception desks, there are several options for shielding staff from the virus. Glass partitions can have hatches installed similar to those seen in doctors surgeries and post offices. Desktop Perspex screen toppers (also known as ‘sneeze screens’) can also be used as a barrier to reduce the risk of airborne germs.
We want to help businesses prepare for returning to work safely without comprising the health and risk of their employees. During these uncertain and testing times, we have focused our efforts on supplying protective office equipment such as glazed ‘sneeze screens’ to companies in our local area and beyond. For more information, please visit our page on Social Distancing Solutions.