Since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday 10th May regarding some sectors returning to work after COVID-19, both employers and employees have been concerned about what they need to do to prepare their office for the return to work. In this blog, we have put together some guidance and helpful tips to get your office up and running again.
Office life after lockdown
Let’s face it, office life after lockdown is going to be a completely different place to work. Catching up with colleagues at the coffee machine, discussing last night’s soaps or football results isn’t going to be happening for a long time.
Getting back to work is not going to be easy, but if you follow our tips and guidance you can provide a safe working environment for those members of staff who are returning to work.
Social Distancing in the workplace – the latest from the Government
In the first instance, businesses should make every ‘reasonable effort’ to enable working from home as the very first option. Should working from home not be feasible, businesses should ensure that they comply with all social distancing guidelines set out by the Government.
- Maintain social distancing of a minimum of 2 metres at all times.
- Increase the frequency of hand washing.
- Use screens or barriers to separate people (if not possible, clearly mark defined areas on the floor with highly visible tape).
- Where possible, use back-to-back working, if not side-to-side – rather than face-to-face.
- Reduce the number of people each person will be in contact with by using fixed teams or partnering. Where possible, carry out meetings using technology such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype etc. – even between colleagues in the same office.
- Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, consider whether that activity needs to continue for your business to function. If it needs to continue, then take mitigating actions to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between staff members.
- Restrict visitors to the office unless entirely necessary and otherwise cannot be avoided.
If you have taken all the necessary steps for social distancing and there are still times when some of your employees must work face-to-face for a sustained period, then you will need to assess whether this activity can safely go ahead. Your staff are not obliged to work in an unsafe environment and therefore their safety must be your first priority.
For more information, read the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.
Return to work Health & Safety assistance
All employers have a duty of care to their employees. If you are re-opening your office for business, there are many steps you need to take to ensure everyone’s health and safety is protected. These include, but are not limited to:
- Ask employees to work from home if they can, and your systems allow for this.
- Carry out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment which should include guidance for employees, contractors and visitors. Identify risks and hazards, who may be at risk, the consequences of that risk, and whether further action is required.
- During your risk assessment, you should consider those employees who are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 (underlying medical conditions, pregnant women etc.). If possible, these employees should be asked to work from home.
- Keep up to date with all the latest advice from the Government, the NHS and the HSE to ensure that any updates are received and actioned promptly.
- Ensure the two-metre social distancing protocols are maintained.
- Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage the transmission risk my introducing Plexiglas screens, issuing PPE etc. (see Government guidelines).
- Put in place robust cleaning measures to include deep clean of communal areas each morning and evening using appropriate detergents and cleaning fluids.
- Make available hand sanitisers at office entrances and other areas around the building such as kitchens, bathrooms, and areas of high use.
- If you are leasing your building, check with your landlord to find out what safety protocols they have put in place.
- Continually monitor all new processes and procedures put in place, so that any required adjustment can be immediately made.
Staff health questionnaire
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the potential risk of exposure to your workforce must be your main priority when preparing your office for staff returning to work. A simple staff health questionnaire can be part of your monitoring procedures so that you are able to take precautionary measures to protect yourself and your staff, should anything of concern be raised.
The questionnaire should ask questions that include, but are not limited to:
- Whether they have had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Whether they have been in close contact with anyone who has travelled from one of the countries listed on the Government website as countries not to travel to in the last 14 days.
- Have they experienced any cold or flu-like (i.e. fever, persistent cough, sore throat, respiratory illness, difficulty breathing) symptoms in the last 14 days
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you should consider asking that member of staff to work from home for at least 14 days.
We suggest that you ask all workers who are returning to your office to follow a few simple rules to help reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 or potentially spreading it to colleagues:
- Maintain strict personal hygiene.
- Do not touch your face if you haven’t washed your hands.
- Do not shake hands with colleagues, visitors or contractors.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – make sure this is carried out regularly. (Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
- Cover mouth and nose with tissue (or sleeve) when coughing or sneezing. Ensure all used tissues are placed in a bin as soon as they have been used, and then wash hands: “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it”
- Maintain social distancing protocols at all times – always keep two metres apart.
- If you MUST have close contact with a colleague, keep contact down to a bare minimum – 10 minutes at the most.
- Clean any work surfaces and equipment that you touch regularly.
- Follow your company’s COVID-19 procedures as set out in their risk assessment document.
- If you fall into the Government’s criteria for those people of high risk, or think you do, speak in confidence to your line manager and try to work from home if possible.
- Lastly, if you feel ill or display any COVID-19 symptoms, you should stay at home.
Remember COVID-19 is not discriminatory. Anyone can pass on the virus, and anyone can catch it.
Measures to make your office safe
Montagu Property services is able to carry out a number of measures to make your office safe for you and your staff to work safely. These include:
- Deep cleaning and disinfecting of your entire facility.
- Fixing hand sanitiser pumps to:
- Areas of access to your office (front doors, communal doors etc.)
- Communal areas
- By photocopiers and printers
- Various other places around the office as appropriate
- Introducing a regular disinfecting and deodorising regime that will sanitise the environment, using chemicals that are effective against harmful micro-organisms such as MRSA, Norovirus, E. Coli, Salmonella and C.difficile.* Our system also eradicates odours, keeping the environment clean and fresh.
- Installing convex mirrors to stairwells so that it is possible to check whether it is clear and safe to access the stairs.
- Disconnecting doors to kitchens to avoid staff members touching door handles.
- Checking all lightbulbs and replace those that are faulty or spent.
- Installing signage around the office such as:
- Reminders to keep two metres distance from colleagues
- Reminder to uses tissues when coughing or sneezing – “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it”
- Reminders to wash hands regularly
- Marking out areas on floors to ensure social distancing protocols.
*NB. Our process is currently undergoing laboratory testing for efficacy against Covid-19.
Whatever measures that you are taking regarding health & safety and social distancing in the workplace, we can help. Give us a call on 0207 723 5463 between 8am and 6pm, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss preparing your office for staff returning to work after COVID-19 and maintaining a safe workplace.