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How to create a safe office environment to protect your staff

15 June 2020

With more and more people beginning to return to the workplace, it is vital that businesses take steps to create a safe office environment which protects their staff, as well as enabling teams to work as efficiently as possible.

 

Re-organising to create a COVID-compliant workplace

The government has outlined their recommendations to help businesses protect their staff and prevent the spread of Coronavirus. When reintroducing staff into the workplace, you must maintain the recommended safe distance between people who are not of the same household. This is something that every office and workplace will now need to bear in mind – and physical changes to the working environment may need to be introduced to accommodate this. This can mean reorganising your office or workplace by moving desks and workstations to fit with social distancing.

We recommend looking at the available space and creating a desk plan. This enables you to make the most of your environment while still observing the rules. When rearranging, consider aligning the desks so people are working back to back or side to side. This reduces the risk of infection without too much disruption to people’s day. Small changes like this increase the sense of normality which will be good for morale whilst also protecting your employees.

 

Should you bring all staff back to the workplace?

To maximise space in the office consider allowing some employees to continue to work from home part time. This will reduce crowding in the office. A good way of doing this is separating the office into teams, meaning only a percentage is in the office at any one time. This allows the same people to work together and you minimise the number of staff potentially being exposed. When deciding who you should ask to come back to the office, it is important to think about how staff will be getting into work. Consider asking staff who commute via public transport to remain working from home during this time to reduce the risk of infection on the way into work.

Make sure you have identified those who are particularly vulnerable, or those who live with vulnerable people. If there are employees on your staff who are more likely to be badly affected by COVID-19 you may need to put special measures in place for them. That could include designating areas in the workplace or rearranging work structures to allow them to remain isolated at home. It is important to discuss with these employees how you can help them feel safe to ensure no one feels anxious about coming into work. If you are unsure, initiate a conversation with your staff and welcome them to approach you confidentially if they have any concerns.

 

Communal areas and navigating the office

If only a portion of your office is in at a time then it is a great opportunity to transform desks into hygiene stations or extended break areas. Increasing the space for break areas can prevent crowding during lunch times, as people have more space to use.

If your office has a lift it is important to reduce occupancy to one person at a time as lifts have minimal ventilation so even with the correct safe distance the virus can still spread. If this has the potential to create a queue and therefore a congregation of people in the reception area then you may want to consider limiting the lift for exclusive use for your less abled members of staff. Of course, you should also recognise that a due to the number of people pressing the buttons in a lift that adding a hand sanitiser station within the lift may also be extremely beneficial.

Introducing one-way routes within your office can help manage busy hall ways and stairways where social distancing could be difficult. A good way of doing this is marking the routes out with tape on the floor and communicating with your employees to ensure they understand this and how it works.

 

Promote safety and hygiene

Staff re-entering the workplace is a great opportunity to set the culture of hygiene in the office. Pop up hand washing stations and reminder posters around the workplace can be useful when it comes to making hygiene a top priority. Something as simple as ensuring that everyone on your staff is regularly washing their hands could be the difference between an outbreak in your office and a situation that can be kept under control.

If you want to keep your staff safe during a return to work, taking steps to encourage a culture of hygiene is going to be crucial. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. MBM Omega has a full range of return to work and PPE products on our online store, as well as social distancing and deep cleaning solutions. Browse the range and get in touch today.