On 1st August 2020 UK Government advice for employers changed as part of the plans for “a significant return to normality by Christmas”. On 17th July the Prime Minister said that "Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely."
Many employers and employees will be asking whether they are working in a COVID-19 secure office space? How safe is it? Could more be done? All these questions are vexing employees and employers as we all consider how to make returning to the office as safe as possible.
In this article we look at flexible workspaces and how the industry has responded to the need for safer office environments. We highlight ten key measures that are helping to make flexible offices safer.
Flexible workspace operators have responded swiftly
Flexible workspace providers, (those offering serviced offices, coworking, managed and hybrid spaces), have been some of the swiftest to respond to the Government guidelines on COVID-19 secure offices and contact centres. Importantly many flexible workspace providers have gone way beyond the mandatory measures, investing heavily and making herculean efforts to make their offices as safe as possible.
With lockdown restrictions easing, flex providers are confident that their new safety strategies will only enhance the environment of innovation, social interaction, wellbeing and productivity that already exists.
Flexible workspace operators are putting your safety first
Flex space providers have adopted a “safety first” approach and have been rolling out new health and safety protocols to ensure workspaces are healthy, safe and productive. In addition to implementing the recommendations within the Government guidelines some have consulted more widely and have been advised by healthcare experts in infectious diseases and hygiene, and specialist medical institutions to shape their safer office strategies.
Ten ways that flexible workspaces are being made safer
1. Distancing, cleaning and hygiene
Distancing, cleaning and hygiene are the three pillars upon which operators are building safer offices. From the moment you arrive in the office you will notice how much effort and expense has gone into enhancing your safety. You should feel confident that no stone has been left unturned to provide a safer office environment.
2. Safer layouts, fixtures and fittings
Office layouts, desks and seating have been revised to provide safe distancing and, where appropriate, plexiglass dividers are being installed. Private offices have been reconfigured with fewer desks and free-flowing space to allow safer movement.
3. Handwashing and sanitisation
Frequent thorough hand washing is widely recognised as one of the most important safeguards in combatting COVID-19. Flexible workspace operators have rolled out multiple hand washing facilities in lobby areas upon arrival and extensively throughout their buildings.
4. Temperature checks
Non-invasive temperature checks, such as thermal imaging are being widely introduced for all residents and guests. In many locations those visitors recording a temperature of 38C or above will be refused entry and asked to refer to NHS guidance. Operators are well aware that temperature screening must be done lawfully and any data captured by imaging must be processed in accordance with prevailing data protection laws.
5. Free face masks
Most flex space operators will have policy guidelines on wearing face masks and many are providing free high-grade masks for all workers and visitors.
6. Safer ventilation
Having well ventilated workspace is an important part of combatting the spread of COVID-19. In a recent study of “Heating , Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems in the Context of COVID19”, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control concluded that “HVAC systems may have a complementary role in decreasing transmission in indoor spaces by increasing the rate of air change, decreasing recirculation of air and increasing the use of outdoor air”. Consequently, flex operators are modifying their HVAC systems wherever possible to optimise safer air flow within their buildings.
7. Signage and One-Way systems
Floor tape, stickers and spaced seating guidelines are in place within most flexible workspaces and pathway indicators have been located to create walkways guiding people through buildings without accidentally contacting others. Spacing indicators are commonplace to help with safe standing and seating. Prominent signage conveying health and safety guidelines are clearly visible in strategic locations throughout flex office buildings.
8. Wellness and Health Programmes
In recognition of the stresses that we are all suffering, many flex office providers are offering additional wellness programmes to help with residents’ physical and mental health. Wellness classes and studios remain open, with distancing respected, and wellness events are running to support employer and employee wellbeing.
9. Enhanced cleaning
Flex providers are implementing enhanced cleaning protocols to ensure they maintain the highest standards. Many providers have hired extra staff to ensure that new protocols are maintained. Training, management and supervision of cleaning staff is imperative to ensure that cleaning is implemented effectively. Flex operators have been leading the way in this aspect of office management.
Cleaning regimes now include; hourly inspections, daily floor to ceiling cleaning and sanitisation, high touch area (switches, handles etc.) focus cleaning, usage of high grade anti-bacterial cleaning solutions, more frequent cleaning of common areas (meeting rooms, kitchens etc.), half hour cleaning of lifts and bannisters. The list goes on.
10. Safer shared facilities
Some of the shared amenities available within flexible workspaces are what differentiate them from a traditional mundane office. Concierge services, bike storage, lockers, gyms, showers, kitchens, conference rooms, event spaces, roof terraces, reading rooms, lounges etc. make the flexible workspace so much more than just an office. Flex office providers have gone to great lengths to ensure that many of these facilities can still be used and enjoyed safely. Capacity, distancing and usage is regulated, cleaning is meticulous and etiquette on usage is clear for all. You will soon find that many of the amenities that you enjoyed prior to lockdown are available post lockdown.
Need help finding a COVID-19 secure office?
If you are planning for transitioning back to the office and the safety of your workspace is top of your priority list, Office Freedom can help you review your options and find a suitable “Covid-19 Secure” flexible workspace. Offices are available nationally and internationally and are ready to move in next day. Our advice is independent, impartial and free of charge and we’ve been helping companies find great office space since 1993.
Speak with one of our expert property consultants today. Call 0203 603 2576 or visit https://www.officefreedom.com/company/contact-us
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