Returning to the Office post-COVID-19 lockdown

For those companies who have/want to reintegrate their staff back to the office either fully or in part, the planning started weeks ago.

Companies of all sizes are affected and there are lots of elements to consider around social distancing, protecting employees and limiting exposure. From speaking to our client companies, plans are being developed such as:

  • Rotas for those working in the office each day to limit the number of people each employee is exposed to.
  • Reducing the number of working stations in an office to make room for the 2m social distancing guidelines.
  • Removing “hot desk” options as it makes it more difficult to keep equipment clean.
  • New office layouts to include one-way systems to reduce traffic and coming into contact with colleagues.
  • ‘Reminder’ measures like tape boundaries to advise about the 2m rule when using shared facilities.
  • Changes to meeting formats to either be virtual or take place in an outdoor space with good ventilation and room for 2m social distancing rules.
  • The use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks and gloves where it wasn’t previously necessary.

Big technology organisations, like Twitter, are leading the way with their HR Vice President announcing last week;

Opening offices will be our decision; when and if our employees come back, will be theirs.

clearly demonstrating that where it’s not business-critical, they’re choosing to support the employee’s choice to return to the office or not.

 

Creating a safe office environment is made more difficult by the recent trend away from cubicle/confined office working spaces, towards open-plan offices. These open-plan spaces have “suddenly become more risky than revolutionary” but around 73% of UK office workers currently work in an open-plan office environment. Not only is there an issue with the lack of physical barriers to prevent spread, but trends show that office spaces have also become more densely populated, with the average workstation size decreasing by nearly 2 metres squared per person in the past decade. 

It will be interesting to see how big corporations such as Google, who are leaders in the collaborative workplace style and layout and have, in the past, used their office space to shape, cement and underline their identity, tackle the coming months. And also, how these trends in tech working culture filter down to smaller organisations.

 

We plan to update this post as more relevant and up-to-date information becomes available, regarding how companies are implementing changes to return to the office.