Jonathan Simpkins, Managing Director, Bluespace Ltd
The Covid-19 pandemic has infiltrated and affected, in some way, the lives of everyone in the UK over the past few months, with the full impact yet to be fully established.
Now as we start the long road back to our new normality, it is important that our work spaces adhere to social distancing measures to enable businesses to begin fully trading again and lessen the future impact on our economy.
Government requirements include a coronavirus health and safety audit for all businesses of more than five people, increasing the frequency of cleaning and hand washing, and encouraging back-to-back or side-by-side working.
Any changes in the workplace need to be carefully thought out and executed to minimise the level of impact a prolonged, or future outbreak, could have on your business. The following tips should help you to carry out best practices in ensuring the safety of employees returning to the workplace.
Creating a Safe Office Layout
Consideration needs to be given to the personal working space of staff. Desks and workspaces should be reconfigured to allow at least 2 metres between employees with back-to-back or side-to-side working arrangements whenever possible. Partitioning such as perspex screens should be installed to allow staff to work closely without the risk of cross contamination. Shared spaces such as kitchens, meeting rooms and break-out areas should be redesigned to allow for appropriate distancing measures to be carried out, including floor markers and signage to help guide and remind staff to maintain safe distances between themselves.
Open Plan Office Design
When it comes to an open plan office, working spaces should be configured to allow for back-to-back working. Try to reduce the number of staff in the office at any one time by adjusting shift patterns, where viable, to discourage full occupancy within the office.
Floor stickers, signage or painted visual aids should be used to guide employees on safe working distances. A one way traffic system should be considered to help support social distancing in walkways. Installing additional break-out zones will reduce the congregation of people during breaks, as will staggering the times that these take place.
6 Top Tips to Make Your Office Safer
- Remove absorbent furniture and fabrics
Unless they are bleach friendly, soft furnishings are hard to keep clean. Instead choose office furniture and screening that is functional and easy to wipe down.
- Install hand sanitising dispensing units. Encourage the regular use of hand-sanitiser and promote the importance of keeping personal workspaces clean.
- Add perspex screens between workspaces
Installing screening between workspaces and public areas is a quick and effective way to protect your staff and, if applicable, the general public from the risk of cross contamination.
- Allow 2 metres between all seating
2 metres should be granted between all workspaces. If this is not possible when at full occupancy, consider shift patterns or part-remote working to reduce the overall number of staff in the office at any one time.
- De-clutter personal workspaces
Uncluttered environments are easier to disinfect and maintain cleanliness of and clear of clutter. Discourage desk toys and minimise paperwork.
- Integrate top hygiene practices in your culture
Create policies to support your new measures to ensure that staff are fully updated. In the event of sickness, staff should be encouraged to stay at home. Should a full “sick day” not be appropriate, remote working should be provided as an option.
Change Your Workplace Thinking
When adapting your workplace or office to adhere to social distancing requirements, take time to plan your new layout to ensure it will not only work for your staff but also for your company goals.
This is not about a quick fix. Any adaptations are about keeping your staff safe and your business functioning in the unknown landscape that lies ahead. Investing in these preparations properly will not only protect staff, but will also minimise the risk of financial impact from absence or closure.
Businesses need to use the lockdown period as a chance to refresh and revitalise your workplace, with some measures taking time to not only plan but also to implement. We all have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in our workplaces to prevent the spread of Covid-19 as we start our road to recovery as a nation.
Bluespace Ltd have produced a comprehensive free-to-download guide ‘Adapting your office for safe working with Covid-19’ which can be downloaded here
Bluespace Ltd are an innovative office design company offering design and build solutions for commercial interiors in and around East Anglia. Launched in 2002, they have managed projects in retail, schools, colleges, universities, offices and open spaces across a wide range of industries.
Offering a full service from initial design to a comprehensive fit-out including full project management, Bluespace’s team of innovative creative designers work with their clients to ensure projects meet both budgets and timescales, ensuring expectations are always met and exceeded.