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How should offices deal with Covid-19 when reopening?

With offices looking to reopen, are you aware of the official guidance when reintegrating to the workplace?

It is a daunting time for workers as we prepare to head back to the workplace for the first time since lockdown. With many offices now looking to reopen their doors to workers, numerous safety measures are being implemented to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff. With what feels like an information overload on how we should be protecting ourselves, the government has released some official guidance on how the workplace should manage safety during reopening after Covid-19. Here are the top pieces of advice:

Work from home if you can

Unless it is essential for staff to be in the office, it is a good idea that they continue to work from home. Though offices and workplaces are slowly beginning to reopen, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to head back to work full time straight away. Flexible working is becoming a real consideration for numerous workers as we begin to transition back to normality. Meaning staggered working hours, part of the week working from home or even making the jump into full-time remote working.

Social distancing

These two words have become a part of everyday vocabulary over the last few months, so it now seems strange to imagine a world without social distancing. This is reiterated in the official guidance, which clearly states that social distancing measures must be maintained in workplaces until the government advises otherwise.

This may mean a redesign of offices to incorporate two-metre distances, higher rates of flexible working meaning staggered starting times, one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms. Employers should implement this distancing guidance before reopening and ensure they communicate the changes to their staff before they are in the office.

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Better use of PPE/barriers

Where people cannot be two metres apart, employers should minimise contact between workers to manage the transmission risk. Employers should provide barriers in shared spaces, create workplace shift patterns or otherwise minimise the number of employees in contact with one another, ensuring people are fully protected by PPE and aware of safety guidelines.

If workplaces do not have the right PPE and barriers in place, they should avoid opening until they do. Employers should also ensure that all staff are trained in the right ways to use PPE.

Coronavirus risk assessment

Every workplace will need to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with their workers or trade unions before reopening. This allows the workplace to establish what guidance needs to be put in place to protect its workers. Where possible, employers should also publish the risk assessment results on their website.

Reinforcing cleaning process

Employers should provide numerous hand-washing facilities in the workplace, as well as hand sanitisers at all entrances and exits. Working facilities should also be effectively cleaned more frequently, focusing on areas such as door handles and other high contact objects.

Vulnerable workers in safer roles

Any high-risk employees should be placed in the ‘safest possible roles’ if they cannot work from home, draft guidance says. Employers need to be mindful of workers’ rights, including health and safety regulations, their employment contracts and the Equality act. This might mean employers have to look further within the organisation to place a high-risk worker in a safe role.

Reduce pressure on public transport

Employers should also support the safe use of public transport. They can help reduce the pressure on public transport by staggering working hours to avoid rush hour peaks and encouraging employees to take another form of transport to work.

Monitoring staff wellbeing

As lockdown has brought mental wellbeing to the forefront of the conversation, life after lockdown will also bring a bigger focus on employee wellness. From ensuring employees know how to look after their mental wellbeing when working from home, to creating healthy workplace habits such as yoga in the office, employers will be expected to monitor staff mental and physical health.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at HR company CIPD, suggested that employee relations would be key in all workplaces. “The sorts of behaviours that are going to be critically important are exhibit[ing] empathy, listen[ing] to staff, [and providing] support and flexibility,” he states.

Moving forward

As we move towards a world back in the office, it is important that we keep ourselves and our professional lives protected. Employers should follow all official government guidance, and encourage employees to read and understand these requirements, alongside their workers’ rights.

If you have any questions, enquiries, or maybe you want some advice about how Bluespot Furniture can help you redesign your office, head to our contact page and give one of our friendly and experienced customer service team a shout!

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