As the UK begin to discuss moves on how we will return to work, employers need to think about how they are going to ensure they keep their employees safe and give them the confidence to return.
The Government has started to share its roadmap for how we come out of lockdown but a lot of the finer detail is missing and businesses are going to be expected to be innovative when it comes to implementing safety measures and keep their workforce safe.
To accommodate social distancing measures, full 100% office use is highly unlikely for some time.
Staggered start times, reduced hot-desking and additional hygiene procedures are just some of the measures recommended to enable workplaces to reopen. Workplaces are also being encouraged to use protective screens and partitioning.
Social distancing and what it means for the office?
If we are to maintain social distancing, once back at work, then the office environment is going to have to change. There needs to be more distance between employees in the office, meeting and lunch areas. Employees need to be able to move around without fear of bumping into colleagues. And above all, employees need to feel confident that everything possible is being done to ensure their safety.
What can you do?
Creative solutions will need to be devised to guarantee employee health and safety. As the open-plan office has become increasingly popular, this presents real challenges for most.
Staggering start times and days spent in the office is one option for helping to maintain the 2-meter rule.
One suggestion from the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) is to introduce a ‘four day on, ten days off’ work rota to limit contact between staff.
Other considerations include privacy screens for desks and hot desking is likely to be a no-no. Easy access to hand sanitiser a must.
X2 Furniture can supply a number of privacy screens. Click here for more information
Consider consulting with a professional space planner to see how your workspace can be best used and adapted.
You may consider using partitioning to create private areas. There are lots of options on the market to provide the solution you need.
Talk to us about our range of options, including privacy screens.
Flow around office
You need to consider how people move around the office. Can they do so easily or are walkways/corridors to narrow to pass safely. Think about creating a one-way system or ports safe ‘passing places’. Partitions can again be used to divide walkways.
X2 Furniture provide a space planning service to assist you in organising your workspace. We can also supply a number of safety screen and partitioning options.
Contact us to arrange a consultation.
Working from home/remote working
For weeks now, many of us have been working from home and proving that we can do the job just as well, if not better. Although this won’t be ideal for everyone, there is still a huge opportunity for businesses to fully embrace this way of working. It removes the requirements for social distancing in the office (or at least eases them) and for many, they will feel safer continuing to work from home (for some time yet).
If your employees are continuing to work from home, make sure that you show your employees the care and consideration they deserve and that they are able to work as productively and comfortably at home as in the office.
Here is our advice for overcoming the biggest challenges that businesses and individuals face when homeworking.
The Six Biggest Challenges faced when Homeworking
1. Fear of employees slacking off
Many managers have been reluctant in the past to let employees work from home for fear of them slacking off. Some managers feel that if their staff aren’t physically in the workplace then they can’t be trusted to get the work done. A lack of trust can be a big barrier to successful homeworking. If employees don’t feel trusted, then this is likely to have an impact on motivation and engagement.
Ensure you agree processes and procedures early on so that everyone knows and understands their roles and responsibilities. Employees and managers both need to know what is expected of them. Set clear and realistic goals and agree how progress and updates are going to be communicated and monitored.
2. Working too much
In fact, slacking isn’t usually the problem. Often employees who work from home feel they have to work harder and longer hours as they don’t want to be accused of slacking off. Many home workers also start earlier and finish later, finding it hard to switch off.
Homeworkers also forget to take breaks. And without interruptions from colleagues and the constant offers of cups of tea, it can be easy not to look up from your computer for excessive amounts of time.
How to avoid overworking
- Keep to your regular working hours
- Put your laptop away at the end of the day (take away the temptation to log back on)
- Schedule regular breaks – put these in your calendar and stick to them
- Set up a social media group with colleagues and ask “who wants tea?”
3. Staying motivated
- For some, motivation and procrastination can be an issue. You need to find ways to stay motivated and avoid procrastination. Getting organised, time management and ‘to do’ lists are essential for effectively working from home.
- Getting organised when working from home
- Keep a clear and tidy workspace – reduce the number of gathering places you have for information
- Keep a clear mind – lots of people use their mind as a gathering place for undealt items. Make sure you have a process for getting things out of your mind and recorded, either on paper or electronically.
- Focus on those tasks that are most important first. In his book ‘Eat that Frog’, Brian Tracy, describes how if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done the worst thing you’ll have to do all-day
4. Lack of human interaction
For some, working in isolation can be a godsend, for others it can be a real challenge and have a detrimental effect on wellbeing.
When you work in an office there are many impromptu moments of interaction with colleagues. The absence of these interactions when you are working from home can leave you feeling quite isolated.
One thing to consider is having virtual coffee breaks with your colleagues. Schedule a time during the day to catch up with colleagues and/or friends. Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet are great for getting together with others online. You might even want to share a Friday afternoon beer – online of course!!
5. Appropriate environment
Employers have a duty of care to all their employees, and the requirements of the health and safety legislation apply to homeworkers. Employers need to be aware of their duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to carry out a risk assessment to identify any hazards relating to the work done by homeworkers and to take steps to remove them. Checks include making sure that chairs, desks, workstations and computers are suitable for tasks being performed. Temperature, lighting and ventilation also need to be suitable.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders cost UK businesses dearly. And while employees carry out workspace evaluations and offer things such as wrist supports, adjustable monitor stands and chairs for in-house employees, many businesses don’t offer the same support to remote workers.
As we are now being encouraged to work from home, shouldn’t businesses apply the same in-house approach to ergonomics to homeworkers?
Top tips for creating a healthy home workstation
Adjust your chair and sit correctly. If you can invest in a good ergonomic chair that offers support and helps ensure you have the correct posture. If you have to make do with the kitchen table, invest in a sitting wedge and a back-friend to give you a bit more support.
Ensure that your screen is at the correct height. Looking at a screen that is at the wrong height or angle, is a sure-fire way to get a sore neck and can lead to other musculoskeletal disorders problems. As a guide, the top of your screen should be in-line with your eyebrows.
Use your laptop correctly. One of the benefits of a laptop is its portability. Although it may be tempting to sit on a comfy sofa, or even sit in bed, this is going to do your posture no good at all. It’s recommended that if you are using a laptop for any length of time, you should use a laptop stand to raise the laptop to eye height. You should then use a separate keyboard and mouse to ensure that the screen stays at arm’s length.
Visit https://x2furniture.co.uk/homeworking-solutions/ for more information on our home working solutions.
Fortunately, technology now exists to make home working more than possible. Many businesses are already using cloud-based storage, making file-sharing easy. And a lot of businesses now have telephone systems that allow remote-access or can be configured to divert to remote workers.
There are many video conferencing apps available, allowing face-to-face contact with colleagues and customers and there is even technology for monitoring your on-line time.
WORK & MOVE Employee wellbeing software is a personal on-line coach that helps workers alternate between digital screen work and mental and physical movement.
You also need to consider the devices that your employees are working from. It is far safer to use work-approved and controlled devices when accessing company sensitive information than someone’s personal laptop.