While the future of work is likely to offer greater flexibility around home working, many people are keen to return to offices in some capacity. Some 55% of people plan to take up a hybrid model and split the working week between home and the office.
If they haven’t done so already, businesses in the UK and beyond will be busy preparing their workspaces to welcome back employees in the coming weeks. But many workers will understandably have reservations about returning – even if they’re keen to be regain the social aspect.
Signage specialists instantprint recently surveyed 1,000 UK employees and found certain habits, in particular, would upset them. Not washing hands, coming into work when ill and even kiss and hug greetings are big no-gos, as well as pen chewing and sitting on co-workers’ desks.
So how can businesses welcome back employees safely and limit these kinds of anxieties?
It goes without saying that employees should be instructed to avoid coming into work if they display any common Covid-19 symptoms.
This guidance has become more challenging recently as research has found that the now-dominant Delta variant causes slightly different symptoms. Loss of smell, for example, has been reported far less among those infected with this strain.
Businesses should monitor government guidance regularly to make sure that employees are kept up to date with the symptoms they should be looking out for.
Even when virus numbers are low, it’s still all too easy for transmission to take place indoors without social distancing or ventilation. Offices should be redesigned in the interim to allow extra space between desks and in communal areas.
Most office-based businesses will likely operate with reduced capacity, in line with government guidance, until restrictions are lifted entirely. Other measures such as one-way systems can also reduce the risk of bottlenecks in high-traffic areas.
Though the risk of transmission through contaminated surfaces was potentially overblown at the start of the pandemic, businesses should still be ramping up cleaning efforts to keep workspaces as safe as possible.
This means increasing both the regularity and thoroughness of cleaning sessions, as well as encouraging employees to practice good hygiene. High-contact areas such as door handles should receive especially high attention.
While the creation and rollout of vaccines has put the UK and indeed the world in a better position than it was 12 months ago, the situation is still ever-changing. Businesses need to keep up a high level of communication regarding safe-working policies and any other updates that employees should be aware of.
Many employees may have chosen to intentionally avoid the news to protect their mental health, so this communication should be carried out as clearly and sensitively as possible.
For many workers, returning to the office will represent yet another step towards normality. Businesses should follow the precautions above to ensure this stage of the transition goes smoothly.