Returning to the office seems to be constantly in the news. Organisations differ in the extent to which they request the presence of staff in the workplace. Indeed, in some instances it’s staff who find that they need more contact with their organisation again. The simple fact is that it’s becoming more commonplace for workers to return to the office, at least for part of a week. Workplace presence has very real benefits for both business productivity and individual mental health. So as this reality becomes the standard, what steps can we all take to keep safe whilst being back in the workplace?
Engaging in a partial return to the office isn’t necessarily the culture of presence rearing its ugly head. If one thing can be taken from the COVID pandemic it’s that people can work remotely – and work efficiently to boot. However, there are simply some aspects of being in the workplace that have value.
Working alongside colleagues physically, and having a regular dialogue is important for social wellbeing. It’s also great for inspiring creative ideas and productive working. These moments of unscheduled creative thinking simply don’t happen remotely.
Establishing a distinction between domestic space and professional space was a challenge experienced by many while working from home. Not everyone has a garden office! Having a distinct work space is great for building focus. So many staff will feel the benefit of creating this distinction – even if it’s for just a couple of days a week.
Technological communication is more slick than it has ever been, it’s true. However, there really is no substitute for in person communication within a team, and even between teams. Moments of real world joined up thinking thrive from this, and will benefit the business and the individual.
To embrace all of these benefits of the workplace, then, an employer should carefully consider their approach and the hygiene conditions that they offer to their staff.
Employers must do all they reasonably can to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of people at work. They must complete a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to prevent harm. In addition, they should consult staff on any decisions that involve health and safety.
Part of the planning process is to complete risk assessments for the use of the workplace. This should include entry and exit procedures, communal areas, building occupancy, meetings, and mixing between teams. By working through all of these things, you’ll be able to identify the touch points that require more regular cleaning. You can strategically locate sanitising points and lay out workstations to enable social distancing. Don’t forget to maintain the measures that you put in place. Outsourcing things like restocking sanitiser to your commercial cleaning contractor is a good way to avoid neglecting this.
This will become a key part of providing a safe office environment. By allowing a balance of office based and remote working, you can limit numbers in the office at any one time. Offering flexibility of start and finish times means that not everyone is entering and leaving the building at the same time.
Acceptable levels of hygiene of the workplace have changed for good. It’s crucial that regular cleaning of workstations and communal areas is kept up. This will not only keep your workforce safe during this side of the pandemic, but will also prevent the spread of other illnesses. Pair regular surface cleaning with more periodic deep cleaning. This combination provides the safest environment for your staff and visitors to your building. Ensure that you work with a trusted commercial cleaning contractor who employs COVID safeguarding themselves.
Clearly communicate your policies for workplace safety. If you have put in place room occupancy limits, then display these clearly. The same goes for any one way movement along corridors. Regularly update and consult your workforce on the steps that are in place. This will keep them engaged in the processes. Similarly, have a clear policy in place for any infections that do occur, including isolation and testing.
Employers carry a duty of care to their staff to put in place hygiene procedures that make their working environment the safest that it can be. However, employees play a key role in the success of these procedures.
Employers must put processes in place for the safety of all their workers. These guidelines should be adhered to in order to be effective. Whether this is hand sanitisation on entry to the building, or one way systems to move around the building. Rules only work when everyone sticks to them!
While some workers can’t wait to get back to the office, others may be feeling anxious about doing so. It’s important for everyone across the organisation to show consideration to others during this time. This is a cultural factor that is best promoted by managers and team leaders promoting this behaviour through their own actions.
The way that you travel to your workplace may bring you into contact with more moments of risk than being in the office. So plan when you travel – could you avoid the busiest times, for example? Or maybe cycling to work is something that you’ve been thinking about for years. Not only will you not be face to face with other people, you’ll be improving your health at the same time!
Regular and thorough cleaning is at the heart of keeping your staff safe whilst being back in the workplace. It’s the foundation on which safeguarding procedures must stand. To talk about how our services can help your workplace to be a COVID safe environment, just get in touch.