Updated: Mar 3
After spending the majority of our time at home for the past 12 months, returning to the workplace may feel very daunting for employees when the post pandemic comes. In the first of two blogs, we talk about how Facilities Managers can support teams returning to the office with making physical changes in the workplace.
If you're looking for workplace safety advice on how to encourage employees to safely return to workplace during post pandemic, this blog will help you understand what areas you should tackle and when.
What is Return To Work Safety?
Businesses must legally provide a workplace which is free of hazards and risks. There are many elements to workplace safety; each contributes towards the health, wellbeing and safety of the occupants of the building or work area.
What are examples of workplace safety?
Each area of workplace safety is varied. Examples of workplace safety include: well maintained equipment, natural light sources, clean and hygienic practices and risk-free workspaces.
You can read more about workplace safety over at the Health & Safety Executive.
Physical Office Changes for Returning to Workplace
It's no secret by now that the future workplace is going to be different; Salesforce is the latest company to announce that homeworking will be a permanent fixture for employees, along with a reimagined office space for employees to use if they wish. Aviva are another company who have committed to homeworking practices in their future way of working; the company have announced plans to introduce hybrid working, and have already announced office closures in Norwich.
With more and more companies making similar announcements, Facilities Managers need to ensure return tor work safety and adapt their practices to make employees feel safe to return to workplace.
Here are five tips to ensuring workplaces are physically safe before employees return.
Top 5 Workplace safety advice:
1. Follow HSE guidance
The most important workplace safety advice we can give is to follow the Health & Safety Executive guidance. The key points that they outline in their guidance are:
Undertake a risk assessment so you can outline how building occupants may be exposed to Covid-19, with mitigations for the risks.
Ensure social distancing can be practiced safely, with a 2m distance from occupants at all times to deliver return to work safety.
Implement cleaning, hygiene and handwashing standards that will help to halt virus transmission.
Review ventilation and air conditioning, allowing a supply of fresh air is in constant flow in the workplace.
Talk to workers and provide information that helps them to make decisions during the pandemic, such as how often they visit the office, and how they use the premises when they are there.
Help people working from home by ensuring they can work safely and maintain good wellbeing.
Help vulnerable workers by implementing extra precautions that protect high risk employees from virus exposure.
2. Say goodbye to screens and tape
Many facilities managers locked up offices back in March 2020, expecting a two week closure, thus leaving the workplace looking like a hazard zone.
You may be familiar with seeing tape on the floor indicating which way people should walk, tape covering "off limit" areas like the canteen and seating areas, and angry signs with messages like "STOP", "KEEP 2 METRE DISTANCE" or "NO ENTRY".
This approach may be accepted in higher risk sites, such as in manufacturing, factories or construction sites, but for office workers, this type of communication is not the norm and can make people feel uncomfortable when they return to workplace.
If you want to encourage workers to safely return to workplace, Facilities Managers must remove these barriers and hazardous messaging and replace it with communication which is clear and concise, yet suitable for an office environment.
3. Limit contact in your workplace
It's clear to all of us now that the virus is transmitted when we are in close contact with others, when we touch surfaces that contain the virus, or when we fail to upkeep hygiene methods such as handwashing.
Touchless and voice activated methods are becoming popular to protect us from picking up the virus from surfaces; one example of this is introducing touchless tech in public restrooms. Workplaces can also benefit from this technology; being able to access areas of the building with limited surface contact will vastly help reduce the risk of virus transmission.
4. Reduce reception traffic in your workplace
Does your business operate Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm?
During pandemic or post-pandemic, if you want to control Covid-19 and keep transmission risk as low as possible, you need to control traffic in your front of house/reception areas. The last thing your business needs is hundred of members of staff entering and exiting the building at the same time.
Workplace safety advice for Facilities Managers in this instance is to reduce this risk by encouraging the implementation of initiatives like Hybrid Working or staggered start and end times. Each concept allows employees to have more autonomy over their working schedule, which benefits your team, but also your business.
Fines are waiting for businesses who fail to make their premises safe, so it is imperative that you review employee start and end times as soon as possible.
5. Invest in visitor management
Our final piece of workplace safety advice is to invest in a visitor management system. There are many benefits involved with a visitor management system, including:
Improve return to work safety, avoid fines, bad press and sick employees by investing in a visitor management system that processes employees and visitors swiftly and safely.
This is not the future, customers who saw the service launched at ISE in February 2020 have ordered the solution, and are taking delivery today, making their receptions safe, employees can safely return to work, the visitor journey touchless and decongesting busy reception areas in the future.
Meeting Rooms will check you in automatically.
Reception kiosks will offer high security express check-in for visitors.
The kiosks effectively upgrade visitor entry management.
Employee services will offer desk booking and day locker intuitive reservations, book one and a locker is offered on the same floor.
Genius Bars will be self-service with room, desk, locker, canteen, coffee, and much more.
Hosts will receive check-in alerts to pick their guest up and lifts will be summoned to the hosts floor.