There comes a point during our existence in the shadow of COVID-19 when we must consider the future. For office-based businesses, this comes in the form of working out what the new office normality is going to be. Because one thing is certain, and that is that working life in the UK is not going to simply slip back to how it was ‘before’. So, what is the new normal going to look like? How will our working patterns impact our use of space? And how can we best protect our workforce in the months and years to come?
Up your Hygiene
Clearly, ongoing hygiene practices will be placed under increased scrutiny as we venture into a ‘new normality’ within office spaces. So, where should businesses focus their attention?
Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is pivotal when it comes to meeting ongoing hygiene standards. Office spaces will undoubtedly begin to house regular employees again. And when they do, many existing cleaning schedules may come up against some scrutiny. So this is the time to begin a ‘new normal’ schedule of office cleaning. One which regularly sanitises shared spaces and heavy duty areas.
Of course, the key area for germ cultivation within an office is around IT equipment. Keyboard, mouse and phones combined harbour on average 30,000 germs. More importantly, IT kit is the most common shared facility within an office. So, where you may have not focussed your office cleaning on your IT equipment, now is the time to shift the focus.
As a business, you carry a duty of care for your staff. So, with the added emphasis that government advice now places on regular hand washing, you should include guidelines for this within your standard policies. Pioneering employers will think further than this, though. With widespread reports of the decline in skin condition on account of continuous hand washing, the ‘new normal’ within an office should offer advanced skin care and moisturisers alongside basic hand hygiene.
Ongoing Social Distancing
Maintaining some kind of distance between people will likely continue way after the most stringent lockdown procedures are over. But how will this work in the office?
We’re all getting used to online meetings. However, this does not spell the end of the meeting room. However, it will mean that in the medium term, meeting rooms must be cleaned more regularly and thoroughly than perhaps you have been used to. The number of people who can attend will also be much smaller.
Personal desks are a real hygiene hot spot. Much of this is down to food detritus. When workers begin to return to the office, you may want to consider laying down some ground rules when it comes to eating at desks. You may also need to put a framework in place which enables some level of social distancing to be practiced during breaks.
These are the most commonly touched surfaces across the office building. For example, tables, light switches, appliance handles, toilets and door handles. When staff return to the office, these are areas you will need to ensure are wiped at regular intervals across the day. Gradually the need for this will decrease, but expect the need for a sliding scale of requirement.
Increased Remote Working
Of course, since most office workers have been working remotely, business leaders should expect a legacy here. We’ve all seen the possibilities that flexible working can offer and can understand just how feasible it actually is.
Reliable IT systems
For your remote workforce arrangements to work effectively in the longer term, you must maintain reliable IT networks and systems. So you should ensure the maintenance and longevity of your servers and other equipment through regular cleans and servicing.
Because of the prolonged contact with the face, telephones carry a lot of potential for transmitting illness and viruses. Headsets aren’t much better. But while we remain spread out, we rely much more on this technology. So try to include phone hygiene in your office culture with a daily wipe down practice.
With a greater proportion of flexible and remote workers, schedules of office time will become increasingly important when it comes to the gradual decrease of social distancing requirements. Construct a schedule which ensures that a limited number of people from each area of the office are present in the office on any one day. Certainly in the short term, this will assist your business as we find the new office normality.
The Future of Contact
One thing is clear: there is no substitute for personal contact. We are all missing it, and for us to retain our humanity, it needs to return at some point.
Perhaps business will now value the importance of face to face meetings, and schedule them only when necessary. We may be able to rid our timetables of those pointless, unnecessary meetings which drain productivity from your workforce.
A lot of people have really missed the social activity of their office. So it may be that new office normality prioritises social time. Casual networking is often where some of the best ideas are sparked, so this could be a great thing for your business. If you utilise office space for this, just make sure the activity is correctly cleaned up afterwards!
In a world where site visits may be less frequent, they will count all the more. When a potential client visits your office you know that they are serious about partnership with your business. So the last thing you want is for them to be instantly put off by the state of your building exterior. All the more reason to ensure windows and brickwork are regularly cleaned and maintained.