Editors Note: The following content has been provided by Luke Philpott, Joint CEO at DeVono Cresa.
In recent days, COVID-19 cases have continued to decline in England. With all four nations easing or removing lockdown restrictions, this positive news of a decline in COVID-19 cases means that, for many, a slow and steady return to the office is likely over the coming months. At DeVono Cresa, we believe there are several things that employers should consider when thinking about the return to the office and workplace.
Manage safety concerns
Despite the removal of lockdown restrictions, we must all remain vigilant against the persistent threat of COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic, DeVono Cresa developed a Return-to-the-office risk assessment, providing strategic advice, insights and data needed to help businesses prepare for a return to a ‘COVID-19 Secure’ workplace. Organisations contemplating how to best return staff to the workplace should review our key considerations before returning to the office.
In addition to this risk assessment, we have continued to provide updates on the UK Government’s ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines for businesses. In our conversations with companies of all sizes, we have advised employers on all aspects of compliance with the UK Government guidelines before returning to work. By doing so, employees can be confident that a return to the office does not mean putting themselves or staff at unnecessary risk.
To find out more about the UK Government’s guidelines to working safely, read our summary of the COVID-19 secure guidelines for offices, factories and labs here
Redesign your office space
Upon returning to the office, many businesses have realised that their office design requires a refresh due to COVID-19 and sustained increased levels of hybrid working. Employers should consider ensuring there is sufficient distance between desks, have regular cleaning of surfaces, and should take steps to improve ventilation in the office as ways to continually mitigate the impact of COVID-19, even in the absence of lockdown restrictions.
Additionally, with hybrid working set to continue in some form for millions of employees across the country, many businesses may wish to design their office to better facilitate collaboration and entice employees to return after over a year of working from home. Redesigns could include more collaboration areas or meeting spaces for when employees are in the office, on conversely, involve moving away from the concept of an ‘open-plan’ office to address continued safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.
If you are seeking to redesign your office space to accommodate increased hybrid working and to mitigate safety concerns, then our design and build partners Dthree Studio are equipped to help you in every aspect of your fit-out. Find out more about Dthree Studio here.
For many, the return to offices may be a welcome relief, but for others, this could trigger anxieties and other pressures. Various employees may have fears of travelling to and from work or general health and safety anxieties. Employers and managers must therefore be diligent in the months ahead and look for signs of poor mental health, such as a drop in engagement or lower quality work while considering interventional support.
Whilst safely managing the physical return of staff to the workplace will undoubtedly be a fundamental milestone, supporting staff with their mental health is likely to be a much longer-term and vitally important challenge that all employers should consider.
Ensuring a safe return to the office
It is a welcome sign that lockdown restrictions have at last eased and that there is currently a downward trend in cases across the UK. But employers and employees must still be vigilant against COVID-19 and take appropriate precautions as they navigate the return to the office. After many months of working from home, it is only natural that many individuals are nervous about a full-scale return. At DeVono Cresa, we advise and help organisations ensure their office return is well managed. Get in touch to ensure your return-to-work strategy considers all possible risks and mitigates them.