10 things to consider for the return to work

Business Moves Group

With many ‘Return to Work’ discussions now occurring, it is a priority for business owners and employers to ensure the workplace is safe before employees start trickling back into the office.

Government and expert advice includes working at home where possible, maintaining social distancing measures, improving cleaning standards and minimising transmission with dividers where social distancing is not possible – all of this is easier said than done, so here are a few pointers to support your planning:

Determine which staff members should be office-based

Whilst many people will be itching to get back into the office (parents juggling home-working and childcare, we’re looking at you), there is also now a new wave of employees who have successfully adapted to working from home and are finding themselves more productive and more motivated. Identify these members of staff, recognise their high productivity and motivation and allow them to continue working remotely, with expectations set on when they may be needed in the office.

Phased return to office

After identifying which workers will be returning to the office, develop a phased return plan to allow social distancing measures to be reduced gradually over time through slowly increasing the number of people in the workplace. It may work for you to do this by department, by seniority or by business need.

Rework office layout

Once you know who will be back in the office, plan the space to align to social distancing measures, ideally planning for people to be 2 metres apart. This may mean using alternate, allocated desks and having no-one opposite one another. Remove the equipment and chairs from the desks not to be used and create signage if this will help enforce the measures. You may also need to move some desks and other furniture into storage to add space between the banks of desks. Changes to the layout should also consider no hotdesking – all office based staff should have an allocated desk/workspace.

Screen dividers

If you experience some difficulty in reworking the layout to adhere to social distancing measures, you may need to invest in protective clear screens to safely divide the spaces. These may be screens on top of desking or free-standing screens depending on the area. 

Add extra safety measures to collaborative/breakout spaces

Social distancing measures need to apply here too so screens may be required and some areas may need to be closed off for a while. Have extra cleaning products in these areas including hand sanitiser and anti-bac spray & cloths or wipes.

Communicate with cleaners

Your cleaning team is more crucial now than ever before. Many cleaning companies will be able to advise you on additional measures to maintain a safe and clean workplace but for some individual cleaners, you may wish to communicate extra expectations which may require them to work extra hours (don’t forget extra measures needed in the toilets and kitchen areas). Ensure the safety of your cleaners by providing PPE if they do not have any.

Provide cleaning products across the space

As mentioned, regularly using hand sanitiser and anti-bac products should be the new norm across the office. Whilst some staff members may have their own, many will not so these must be placed throughout the space. Communicate locations of cleaning products, set expectations around usage and have signage to encourage frequent use. You may also want to provide facemasks and gloves at the entrance.

Reduce or cancel non-essential travel

Limit and restrict all non-essential travel to protect your staff and instead provide support needed to hold and attend video meetings – this may be through having paid video conferencing accounts, running training for those less confident in holding video meetings and communicating to your clients this provision will be in place.

Communicate changes and requirements with all staff

As you make changes to the workplace environment, ensure you communicate changes and requirements to keep staff informed and to ensure they have all they need to keep themselves and others safe at work. Ask all managers to hold regular check-ins with their team to support their wellbeing and to discuss changes and additional help they may need in their role.

Financial considerations

Reopening the workplace will come with increased spend which needs to be considered and budgeted for before allowing people back into the office. Costs may include extra cleaning products, PPE, screen dividers, space planning consultants, furniture movers and increased tech support.

For more advice or support in reopening your workplace, please get in touch with Business Moves Group – change management and relocation experts.

Camille Gill
Senior Business Development Manager
Business Moves Group