Staff Returning to the Office? 10 Practical Pointers You’ll Want to Know

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As a responsible employer, ahead of much anticipated Government Guidance, you’ll be putting in place measures so your people can return to work as safely as possible.

You might already have considered aspects like distancing between desks, but that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Staff returning from lockdown and enforced home working may also be experiencing levels of anxiety and may well be emotionally fragile.

As highly experienced workplace designers, here are 10 initial pointers to help you transition your staff as the lockdown rules ease.

#1 Communication

You will have established new lines of communication between teams and between managers and staff.  It’s important to maintain these, and continue to nurture a supportive and encouraging approach.  These new methodologies may seem heavy handed if not applied with sensitivity; this could have a detrimental effects on morale and wellbeing.

#2 Access Protocols

You’ll need to agree with your landlord, if you are in multi-occupied accommodation, lift, stair and wc protocols.

#3 Health and Safety Audits

If working from home is to become a norm and not temporary it is the responsibility of the employer to implement HSE DSE audits; and then to implement the recommendations.

#4 Occupation Levels

How will you control how many of your people are in occupation at any one time? Will you need to upgrade your signing in and out procedures? Utilise software?

#5 Circulation Protocols

How prescriptive do you need to be, a clockwise only rule, and if so how will you encourage this? Are there other, better ways to protect if physical distance isn’t possible?  Will you implement departmental returns, phased shifts, i.e. group A in two days, Group B in two days and those more home based in one day?  Or perhaps you’ll look at staggered shifts with interim office cleaning?

#6 Workplace Signage

Apply signage to encourage rather than hector.

#7 Personal, Surface and HVAC Cleaning Protocols

Establish protocols; those to be undertaken by individuals as they arrive at and vacate a work-setting.  There also needs to be at least one daily deep clean of the entire office, all surfaces and equipment.  Introduce highly visible and frequent hygiene stations to encourage and remind frequent use.  HVAC cleaning protocols may well need to be revisited, to increase airflows, make more frequent filter changes etc.

#8 Storage

The application of strict clear desk policies will need to be implemented; do you need to supplement storage available to allow this.  Touch free options should be explored, otherwise consider the cleaning.

#9 Space Audit and Capacity Assessment

Space audit your current layout to determine what ratio of staff your workplace will accommodate when social distancing is factored in.  This capacity assessment will inform the return process; this is something we can help you with. 

#10 Sustaining Behavioural Change

How will you encourage and reward the behavioural changes and maintain the level of training and nudge needed to sustain these behaviours?

Above all be kind.

Alison Monteith, Managing Director, Monteith Scott


About Alison Monteith

Alison is a Birmingham based Interior Architect and workplace consultant who has a reputation for delivering successful, practical yet creative working environments across multiple markets. Alison established Monteith Scott in 1995, concentrating on creating and delivering people focused working spaces that value the individual in changing and challenging times.
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