Post pandemic workplace: how to prepare returning to the office?

This advice was accurate on 23/02/2021.

After the Government updated us on their plans to bring England out of lockdown, we have compiled a list of key points from the briefing and how they impact the workplace. In this blog we will cover the Government advice for England and discuss how this impacts the post pandemic workplace:

Please note that each area of the UK is taking a slightly different approach to the end of lockdown; as such, you should check the Gov website and news sources if you would like to access specific advice for your area of work or residence.

Four stage plan

It's important to remember that the following four stage plan completely depends on how successful the previous stage has been; for example, if the first stage sees an increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, the further steps will be delayed or put on hold until cases stabilise again. In addition, four conditions must be met before we can progress to the next stage:

  1. The Covid-19 vaccination programme continues at the rate it is expected to

  2. Vaccines reduce the number of people that die with the virus or require hospital treatment

  3. Infection rates do not cause hospital admissions to rise

  4. Coronavirus variants do not seriously impact the country

There's no reason to put a hold on your return to office planning; if delays occur you will be ahead and prepared. Read more about reengineering your workplace for hybrid working.

The UK Government yesterday announced a four stage plan to bring England out of lockdown. We'll detail exactly what that means for the post pandemic workplace below.

Step 1: Prepare for changes

Part 1: 8th March

Key points for the Facilities industry:

  • The stay at home order is still being asked of us

  • You should still work from home if you can

  • Schools will reopen

  • Care home residents may nominate one regular visitor

Part 2: 29th March

Key points for the Facilities industry:

  • Outdoor sport and leisure facilities will open

  • Rule of 6 or two households outdoors

  • Stay at home where possible applies

Should I open my office in March?

At this stage there is no change for offices as we are being asked to continue to work from home. However, if you are the Facilities Manager of a school or care home, you should start to prepare for changes to occur from 8th March. If you are the Facilities Manager of an outdoor sports venue, you should prepare to reopen from 29th March.

Step 2: Begin to plan for your office return

No earlier than 12th April.

In April, providing cases have not risen, restrictions will be relaxed with the following areas reopening:

  • Indoor leisure

  • Outdoor attractions

  • All retail

  • Libraries and community centres

  • Outdoor hospitality

  • Self contained accommodation and domestic overnight stays

However, there is no mention of returning to offices in April. In fact, the official guidance says:

"People should continue to work from home where they can, minimise domestic travel where they can."

Should I open my office in April?

Although at this stage people are being encouraged to continue to work from home, now is a good time to begin planning your office return. It is particularly helpful to begin if you do not have the necessary resources in place to bring staff back to work safely.

Find out what five processes you should have in place by April.

Step 3: Have a solid plan in place by May to bring employees back to the office

17th May onwards.

Depending on the outcome of the stage 2, many more restrictions will be lifted, including indoor sports venues, indoor entertainment and attractions, indoor socialising and large events. Regarding offices being able to open, the Government have advised the following:

"The Government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can."

Should I open my office in May?

At this time it is looking like offices in England should continue to stay closed or low capacity and there should be as much flexibility as possible with homeworking for those who can successfully complete their jobs at home.

We believe Facilities managers should have a solid plan in place by May if they want to return in a way which employees will feel safe.

Find out what why employees are worried to return to the office.

Step 4: Employees returning to Workplace

21st June onwards.

The Government anticipate that all limits on social contact will be ceased and areas that usually see large groups of people in close contact (large events, nightclubs) reopen.

It is worth noting that by June, many of you employees may still be waiting for a vaccine. The Government guidance also currently advises:

"As set out above, some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine, because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100%. As a result, a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection, some of whom will also be vulnerable to severe disease and death."

It's clear from the excerpt that although vaccines may be in place for many employees, some staff may still be vulnerable to the virus and will be anxious to return.

Should I open my office in June?

Because of the anticipated lift of restrictions, we believe that offices will reopen at in June. As such, Facilities Managers must be ready for a post pandemic workplace, with a suitable visitor management policy in place. However, not all employees will feel comfortable returning in June, especially if they haven't had the vaccine yet.

You have plenty of time to prepare for the office return, therefore, if you make those preparations now.

Read more about visitor management policy for post pandemic workplace.

3 things that will change in a post pandemic workplace

Post pandemic workplace relates to the environment, processes and working methods that will be in place in your organisation when Covid-19 restrictions cease. We know that the workplace will not be the same as the one pre-pandemic, however, if Facilities Managers plan efficiently, employees will return to a safer, more efficient office with digital processes.

Hybrid Working model: the new purpose of your workplace

Employees have been given a new found freedom to work wherever suits them best and enables them to produce great work. As a result, the purpose of the office is likely to change.

We are no longer likely to see the majority of office workers heading into the office for 9am with a 5pm finish. The need for a range of flexibility around working hours and location will force many employers to explore the purpose of the office.

Read more about the new office purpose.

Employee are the new visitors

As with the changes to working hours, hybrid working will impact how employees view and use the office, along with the frequency that they visit. Employees are likely to come to the office for specific reasons only.

Facilities Managers need to have a much better overview of who is in the building and when thanks to Covid-19 compliance.

As such, employees are likely to be viewed as a type of visitor in the future.

Read more about employees as visitors.

Psychological safety for your workplace

Working in an environment that prioritises psychological safety allows employees to express themselves, ask questions, make their opinions heard and share ideas without fear of being ridiculed or treated negatively.

Positive and negative psychological safety impacts organisational culture in varying ways. For example, businesses that have a great organisational culture tend to allow employees to voice their opinions in a positive way, and negative cultures do the opposite.

Read more about psychological safety.

Find out how Vgreet can help.

When will employees return to the office?

Thanks to the clear guidance from the UK Government, we believe that offices in England will begin to reopen fully in June.

There are some limitations that Facilities Managers must take into account:

  • Some employees will still be vulnerable to the virus, despite vaccines

  • Social distancing measures are likely to stay in place

  • Employees will want to maintain some degree of distance when in their work space

  • This guidance and dates may change depending on the outcome of the four stage plan

  • Our research on hybrid working indicates that the purpose of the workplace is likely to continue to change

Access our resources on Hybrid Working.

How should I prepare for a post pandemic workplace?

You can access a useful set of recommendations for organisations planning to reopen their offices that are relevant to your reception space. These include:

  • Conducting a HSE workplace risk assessment

  • Being sure to put social distancing guidance in place

  • Moving staff to lower risk areas of your building (e.g. in a back office rather than at a reception desk)

  • Frequent cleaning of all areas, especially those with regular footfall

  • Ensuring Government guidelines are adhered to

  • Mitigating risks in the workplace

  • Read our facilities management checklist for post pandemic workplace.

Visitor management solution

The biggest preparation that you can make is to introduce a digital visitor management solution into your workplace. A Vgreet visitor management solution ensures the following benefits for your organisation:

  1. Cost reduction

  2. Increased digital efficiencies

  3. Improved productivity

  4. A safe workplace

  5. A first-class experience for visitors and employees

Read more about the benefits of digital visitor management.

Watch the Vgreet visitor journey video:

This advice was accurate on 23/02/2021.

Want to get your workplace ready for post pandemic? Contact us.

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