Planning for adaptions to the workplace
30th May 2020
Across industries, everyone is asking the same question; what will the return to work look like in a world altered by COVID-19? While we wait patiently for the governments to lift restrictions, business leaders are facing the challenge of adapting the workplace for returning employees.
MovePlan’s clients are already creating strategies for a return to work, and we’re there to support them with this new challenge. Here we look at some of the physical adaptions our clients are putting in place ready for employees to return, and considerations for long-term plans post COVID-19.
Planning for a phased return to work
It is highly likely that when lockdown restrictions ease further, the government will encourage businesses to return their staff to work in a phased approach and to limit the number of employees in the office at one time. Keep abreast of guidance from the government to ensure you are familiar with any protocols.
Plans should include which employees can return, when and how often. Risk assessments can help decide which employees should come back first. For example, are there roles which cannot be done while physically distancing? Are there employees who can easily work from home? Do you have any staff who are at higher risk if they caught the virus? Are there some staff with childcare issues who can’t come in? At the moment, the key message is if staff can work from home then they should, and this may continue for some time.
Once the risks have been identified, a phasing plan can be created. The needs of the business should also be taken into consideration. At MovePlan, we’ve seen a range of phased plans from our clients, including staggered shifts, office rotation schemes and sectioning off teams from one another to prevent the spread of infection.
Consider the available space
Having employees return in intervals won’t be enough to transition back to the office. Further adaptions will need to be made to the physical space of your work, such as the proximity between workstations. It is likely that staff will need to maintain two metres between them at all times, so businesses need to make this as easy as possible.
Businesses will need to consider the space they have available and determine the safe capacity for the number of staff who can occupy any particular area at one time. Some of our clients are considering adapting the furniture, such as installing screens between workstations, furniture reconfigurations, or getting rid of furniture to create more space.
Reviewing your floorplan layouts will help you determine how many people you can safely seat per floor. Plot each ‘persons’ individual space on the floorplan and place distance parameters around each plot to clearly illustrate safe seating. You can then use this to adjust the seating plan until you get the maximum safe capacity for each floor.
You will also need to consider how to keep staff physically distanced when they move around the office. At MovePlan, we’ve supported clients to develop floor markings to direct the flow of footfall around the workplace to limit contact.
Communal areas such as kitchens, staff rooms and informal collaboration spaces will also need to be taken into consideration. Will these be closed in the short-term, or adapted to allow staff to use them while remaining physically distanced?
Tracking seating rotations
If you do decide to move employees to temporary workstations, these changes must be tracked. Creating tracking documents might seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be with the help of CAFM systems, which offer efficient and accurate support for easy virtual office planning.
Knowing where employees are sitting will be beneficial in tracking phasing efforts, making it easier to circulate who is in the office and when.
Rethinking the function of conference rooms, huddle spaces, and training rooms
Meeting rooms pose a problem for physical distancing. Large meetings may be barred for the foreseeable future. Meetings and trainings of more than 10 people may continue to be virtual. However, in-person meetings won’t completely disappear. They may be limited to much smaller numbers, with personal hygiene practices, limited timing, and appropriate spacing measures in place.
There will still be a need for conference rooms with fewer people using them. Studies show that 84% of people prefer in person meetings. To safely accommodate face-to-face meetings conference room capacity is estimated to be reduced by 50% to allow for physical distancing. Workplace leaders should determine how many employees can safely sit in a room together and set capacity restrictions for meeting rooms. Ensure these changes are communicated to your teams by ways of signage or updated booking systems.
Adaptations will need to be made to accommodate our new ways of working. As we continue to make changes and organisations navigate through the difficulties of this time, we need to focus our efforts on making the workplace safe and keeping our employees healthy.
How offices will function in the future is unknown, we don’t know if changes will be temporary or alter the way we work forever. What we do know is that with a flexible, open-minded, holistic approach, and with forward planning, we can overcome workplace challenges and be better equipped to make improvements.