10 Feb Preparing for the ‘post-covid’ workplace
With so much to consider for a safe return to work, employers may have their work cut out.
‘Post-Covid’ is a bit of a false statement in truth. Without getting scientific about it, it’s fair to say that Covid-19 will be with us for the foreseeable. Businesses need to adapt.
The considerations employers need to make are far-reaching. With everything from the commute to mental health provisions up for scrutiny, it can be hard to know where to start.
That said, there are many innovative ways to positively and productively transition into the ‘new normal in physical terms of the traditional workspace. Working with a supplier like Paradigm Commercial Furniture (PCF) is a sure-fire way to do this. They specialise in bespoke workspaces across various sectors, giving employers and business owners the modern, functional spaces they need to be productive. When careful and creative planning couldn’t be more critical, they are a natural choice for businesses, schools, and many other facilities around the country to help re-shape their working environments.
So, what do employers need to consider for a post-Covid update?
Way before employees set foot back in the workplace, is it fit for purpose? It may well have been twelve months ago, but the world has changed as we well know.
Risk assessments are an essential part of any build and refurbishment. Still, the level of risk in some areas will have significantly increased and in ways that employers have never had to factor in before. When conducting your own risk assessment, you will need to make the necessary checks to ensure the space is Covid-secure.
The type of assessment will also differ between educational settings, hospitality, and office-based workspaces, as is the norm. Still, the outcome of the assessment to be a Covid-secure workspace is the same – you must:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk – HSE – Covid-19 Risk Assessment (cite link)
The HSE is a fantastic resource for Covid-19 risk assessment information and can help you evaluate what you have in situ. Paradigm Commercial Furniture can carry out further assessments to collaborate most effectively with their clients to ensure practical Covid-secure measures are in place.
Social distancing measures
While information is changing all the time, one thing to remain constant is the need for distance between us to help combat transmission. Gone are the days of over-crowded pods and desks, squeezing a chair in ‘for now’ – and you could argue this isn’t a bad thing!
Social distancing can seem restrictive, but from another angle, both organised and productive when creatively implemented. You can still achieve team culture and community with intelligent space planning and products like transparent partitions for pods and meeting spaces. There is ordinarily space wasted in the workplace which can be utilised and made productive.
PCF design one-way routes managed around meticulously planned furnished settings to feel natural and keep the footfall flowing, working with you to achieve maximum productivity out of your space.
Sanitation and cleanliness
Hand sanitation is one of the newer areas to become a fundamental part of the workplace. You will need additional stations periodically featured around your space in addition to sinks and bathrooms, and maybe even at desks and workstations, depending on your sector and preference.
Desk areas are often neglected and may see the cleaner once a week. Again, this is no longer ideal, and if you’re desks and chairs have seen better days, the time has come to invest. Improve storage for de-cluttering and set a new precedent for the office with sleek lines and easy-clean materials, desks, and worktops.
Commercial Bathrooms and toilets are popular areas to be reassessed too. Many are outdated and too small for the growing businesses they support – their size and one-way access points no longer fit for purpose. Commercial interior fit-out specialists such as Paradigm Commercial Furniture work in a turn-key fashion, supplying furniture and space-planning services and plumbing and heating, mechanical and refurbishing work on the whole site, ensuring every aspect of the fit-out is functional. Updating the toilet facilities as part of your fit-out will ensure you do not undo the good work you’re doing in the workspace with shoddy facilities.
Virtual and IRL Meetings
Meetings will still have to happen – whether you like them or not! But, with Flexi-working, home-working, and social distancing to be considered, you are no longer likely to be piling into the conference room ‘in five.’ You can be creative here – mixing virtual and ‘in real life’ meetings together with digital-friendly meeting spaces, where everyone can join in wherever they are or more open-plan breakout areas for those non-confidential pow-wows. For meetings where more discretion is required, increase the airflow and ventilation to keep bacteria accumulating.
In educational settings, the classrooms should also be under review. With the age of pupils, size of classes, and even subjects to consider, your supplier must work with you to maximise the classroom’s potential for a safe return to school for pupils and work for teaching staff.
Where it might have seemed pedantic to be precious about your mug in the office before, now, it’s a matter of safety. A bit much, perhaps. But your kitchen and refreshment areas for your staff are a matter for review. Cups, water stations, kitchen equipment, and so on should be under strict sanitation rules, and sharing highly discouraged if not banned.
There are fun ways to implement this on the ground, with branded water bottles as gifts, even personal cutlery sets! Looking at the bigger picture, increasing the number of water stations available while factoring in one-way routes and social distancing, lunches on shift where space is limited, and updating your kitchen appliances are a good place to start. The kitchen area is an integral part of the workplace and a key feature of a Paradigm fit-out. Include this area where possible as part of your space-planning and update.
While this all may seem intense, and it is, there are many positives too…
Refurbishments and updates are not just for the Covid aftermath. It is a perfect opportunity for a refresh of outdated equipment and furniture, a re-brand, or perhaps a chance to align your environment with your brand aesthetic, that up to now, you just haven’t had time to think about. Take a look – are your surroundings downplaying your brand message?
A new environment for your staff, customers, visitors, and students can be a massive morale-boosting exercise with long term positive effects. After all, a happy employee is nearly always a productive one.
It need not be a full reinvention either. Paradigm Commercial Furniture can scale work to fit your needs and offer a wide range of services that can consider what you have in situ already. With your risk assessment in hand and Covid-secure knowledge up to date, you can start to get creative.
Finally, these are just some of the considerations you should consider when looking at a return to work for your business. There are handy toolkits online, such as this from the Society of Occupational Medicine, to help guide businesses with health and policy aspects of returning to work after lockdown. For your physical workspace needs, Paradigm Commercial Furniture will consult with you to plan, design, and install the workplace you need to bring you and your employees safely, comfortably, and stylishly back into work.