As the government aims to get people back to work as soon as possible, and nationwide vaccines being rolled out, with a slow transition starting around June 2021 and the return to the office could be on the horizon before the end of 2021.
Up until now, only essential workers have been called into work with people encouraged to stay at home. This has meant a big shift for the majority of companies, having to digitalise a remote working policy. For many, this has been a challenge, as they have battled with the distractions of working from home. However, for many, the flexibility of remote working is something they are not keen to say goodbye to anytime soon.
Return to the Office
Data from CREtech suggests that around 60% of employees expect to return to the office by the end of Q1 2021. However, there are many aspects that may look different. A return to the office does not necessarily mean the full workforce in the office full-time. With many feeling anxious about a return to the office, employers will have to place staff safety and wellbeing at the centre of any future planning.
Benefits of Returning to the Office
Many people are keen to get back to the office. An office acts as an important hub for the company, often reflecting the work culture and company values. As much as we have adapted to virtual working, there is a lot to be said about face-to-face interaction to aid communication and increase productivity. That being said, there are key things to consider when returning to the office safely.
Social Distancing at the Workplace
When returning to the office, it is advisable to make working areas as spaced out as possible to keep people 2 metres apart from each other. This means that former social hubs, such as seating areas, should be redesigned. Water coolers and coffee machines, areas where people typically gather, should use staggered timings to discourage big groups of people.
When returning to the office, schedules should be managed to avoid large numbers of staff crossing over at once. This means reduced hours in the office or certain days for certain staff members or departments. Any physical meetings should have the minimum number of employees present as possible. As much as possible, staff should minimise the people they need to interact with and work with the same few people.
It may sound obvious, but basic hygiene practices such as washing your hands, using hand sanitiser, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing and wearing a mask should be standard when returning to work. Additionally, any high risk employees should be kept away from the office as much as they can. See more tips on keeping safe at work.
Employers should let employees know that they take employee health and wellbeing seriously. They should highlight all the measures they have taken to make the office a safe place to return to work. Additionally, employees should be accountable for monitoring their own health. That means not coming into the workplace if they have any known Covid symptoms (including fever, cough, breathlessness). It also means staying at home if you have been in contact with anyone who has had Covid.