What awaits us when we return to the post-COVID office?

Jitesh Patel, CEO Culture, Office maintenance

The coronavirus pandemic has altered our society completely, and many aspects of our daily lives have been disrupted. The new measures that have been put in place will be more apparent than ever as our workforce prepares to return to offices and commercial spaces – meaning businesses have to work to find a ‘new normal’.

One of the biggest trends seen within offices before the pandemic was the move to creating more social and collaborative spaces that promoted a more cohesive workforce and enhanced participation. However, due to social distancing these areas now cannot be used for their intended purpose and individual working areas may once again take precedence as people will value their personal space more than ever.

This presents a new challenge for those in charge of office layouts alongside facilities managers and maintenance teams who are working around the clock to find new and creative solutions that will not only satisfy employees but also follow government guidelines.

Making the temporary adaptations

Due to the varying nature of workplaces across the country, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why it’s vital there is a full planning process in place and time is carved out to make these changes in your physical back to work plan. From Perspex screens at desks, to markers indicating where people can stand in high-traffic areas and regular handwashing/sanitising stations – for many it will look like a completely different workplace to the one we left in early March.

It’s not just about COVID-19

There is currently a long to-do list for facilities managers regarding the return to a physical workplace. Although social distancing rules are starting to change, they are still in place and can present a myriad of challenges when it comes to reintroducing employees. Aswell as navigating the well-publicised government guidelines, it’s vital that those with operational oversight also ensure regular maintenance is carried out – especially as many locations have laid dormant for over three months.

Water system flushing, air ventilation checks and ensuring all lifts are in full working order are at the top of the list to make sure that staff are as safe as possible when it comes to returning to the office. The fact many properties will have had no one step foot in them, means that there has been prime opportunity for bacteria such as Legionella to grow in the pipework. This is such a concern that Public Health England recently warned of the importance of all commercial spaces carrying out necessary checks before people are allowed back.

If your business does have a regular maintenance provider, a lot of these tasks should have been carried out before you physically re-enter the space, but it’s always worth double checking directly with them.

Keeping the faith with the office

The office serves a greater purpose than just a physical place to work from. Your office is key to your business’s culture and represents the company, whilst providing a place where collaboration and creativity thrives.

Overall, workplaces will be very different to the ones we left all those months ago, and although many will be apprehensive about returning, it’s important we find a way to start the return to work. Due to the worry and anxiety that’s built up over the last few months, it’s vital that facilities managers and those with operational oversight remain in control of the return to work, planning and ensure all the necessary checks and procedures are carried out before anyone physically sets foot in the building. If businesses start to think creatively and integrate their culture into these new measures and ways of working, this return to normality will certainly be a welcome one for the office.

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