June 22nd, 2020 by Louise Cunnah
If your employees have been furloughed or working from home for the past few months, then they may be worried about returning to the office, despite lockdown restrictions now gradually being lifted around the globe. With the UK and many other parts of the world adapting to a ‘new normal’, you should already be preparing your building for your staff to return and doing everything you can to ensure they feel safe when your doors are ready to reopen.
With the threat of the virus still being very much present, it’s normal for your employees to have concerns about how they can protect themselves when they return to the workplace – especially as social distancing and wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces is due to be the norm for the foreseeable future. In this scary and uncertain time, you want to ensure your employees feel confident returning to work assured that every step has been taken to protect their health and well-being.
As an employer in the UK, you are now required to ensure that (where possible) everyone in your workplace is able to keep a 2-metre distance. However, if your business is based in Wales (where Tec Marina calls home!), it is a legal requirement for you to take reasonable measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. This includes ensuring that all employees and visitors to your premises are able to stay 2-metres apart. COVID-19 guidelines also state that frequently touched surfaces must be sanitised regularly.
If you employ more than 5 members of staff, your business will need to conduct a full health and safety audit before they are able to return to the office. Below, we outline some quick and simple changes you can make to your workplace to ensure it’s safe for their return…
Provide hand sanitizers
Regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, if hand washing facilities are not available, you should be using hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if you touch any surfaces in public areas, such as office buildings and shops.
You should ensure that everyone in your workplace has easy access to hand-washing facilities and hand sanitisers, with good places to locate hand sanitisers including at the entrance of the building, in communal areas (such as kitchens, washrooms and meeting rooms), and close to the entrance of different rooms. If possible, install automatic hand sanitiser dispensers that don’t need to be touch-operated to further reduce the spread of the virus.
Rearrange your office furniture
To help enforce social distancing, it’s likely that you’ll need to rearrange your furniture or remove some of it completely – especially if your office is small or you have a large team working in an enclosed space. Whether this is by halving the number of chairs that sit around a table in your breakout area or seating employees back-to-back when working, you must ensure that those in your premises are able to move around without coming into close contact with others and that they can keep a 2-metre distance even when seated.
Putting up screens between desks and other seating areas is an effective way of reducing the virus being spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes. If you work in a smaller building with narrow corridors, you should also consider implementing a one-way system for moving around the building and ensuring this is clearly signposted or marked on the floor.
Clean surfaces more regularly
Regular cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces is vital in reducing the spread of any virus. Although your office should already be undergoing daily cleaning, this will need to be substantially increased as coronavirus is easily transferred from people to surfaces, and then to other individuals who touch these surfaces.
Your business should conduct a risk assessment to identify any frequently touched areas in your building, including (but not limited to) workstations, computer keyboards, printers, door handles, windows, kitchen appliances, toilets and work tools. You should put in place measures to ensure these are cleaned and disinfected between each use (if possible). One easy way to enforce this is by placing cleaning products throughout the office so people can disinfect these surfaces and equipment before they use them.
Take a flexible approach
Though you may be keen to see your employees after spending the past few months keeping in touch through emails, instant messaging and video calls, continuing to let them work from home a few days a week will greatly reduce the number of people in your office at one time – making it far easier to ensure that social distancing guidelines are being adhered to. Plus, with many of your employees likely to have adapted to the freedom of working from home, a soft and gradual return to the early morning alarms and traffic-filled commutes is sure to be appreciated!
If possible, offering more flexibility with working hours can also reduce the number of workers who are in the office at one time, as well as help those who are unable to walk, cycle or drive to work to avoid travelling on busy public transport during peak times. Extending the time frames in which staff can take lunch breaks will also ensure that everyone is able to keep a distance.
Looking for the perfect office in South Wales for your team’s return to work? Tec Marina is located just outside of the capital city of Cardiff and offers a number of fully serviced flexible offices for teams of all sizes with plenty of room for social distancing. In fact, we have more open breakout spaces than most other serviced offices! To find out more and to book your virtual or physical viewing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 02921 678391!