Returning to the workplace safely
With the Government’s post-lockdown roadmap on track, companies across the UK are gradually beginning to reopen office doors. There is no denying that the past year has been extremely turbulent, so it is essential for employees to feel as safe and secure as possible on their return to the office environment. To ensure they are fully supported throughout yet another huge transition, there are a few key considerations for businesses to consider, to safeguard employee’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Is now the right time?
This year has seen many people stepping out of their comfort zone by adopting remote working. Although there have been mixed feelings towards this, one thing for certain is that it has completely changed expectations around work. At the beginning, nobody could have predicted how this would pan out, yet many companies have actually reported that productivity has remained stable during the pandemic, and it has even increased in some organisations. In fact, according to research conducted by Wharton, 83% of employees were either more productive or equally as productive when working from home.
Many businesses are now rethinking their business model by harnessing more agile and flexible working practices to meet their employees changing expectations. A survey conducted by MEAVO discovered that the majority of employees want the traditional 9 to 5 day in the office to be replaced by flexible working hours and the option to work from home, while research from Personio found that one in four UK employees said they would resign if they were forced to return to their place of work. With a return to the office now very much in sight, it is time for employers to check in with individuals and work with them to offer whichever option they feel most comfortable and safe with.
Implementing safety measures
For those opting for a return to the office, it is crucial for businesses to have the correct health and safety measures in place. Before arranging the logistics of the return, employers should liaise with those responsible for implementing these safety measures, ensuring all requirements have been met. They also need to ensure that they regularly communicate with staff about the safety measures which have been put in place, as this will likely reassure the workforce that their health and wellbeing is a priority.
Some of the measure’s organisations may consider implementing include:
- Sanitising stations – Providing items such as anti-bacterial gel, wipes, disposable masks and cleaning products positioned at entrances and at intervals around the office to enable regular sanitisation of hands and equipment. Additionally, investing in anti-microbial treatments for surfaces that are likely to be used often such as doors can help to protect employees.
- Contact-free handover of itemsWith many individuals now so used to working from home, there may be some concern around physical interactions that occur during the routine handover of items in the workplace, such as paperwork, equipment, and mail. Hybrid working also means the number of people in the office will vary from day to day and schedules may rarely cross over for some people. As such, distributing items can be difficult, especially if they are valuable – like laptops, or personal deliveries. It is not ideal to leave items in unsecure locations, like on a desk due to security risks and therefore, contact-free processes can be introduced for the exchange of items. Quadient parcel lockers eliminate the risks of person-to-person contact during the handover of goods by acting as a secure hub for items such as office equipment, paperwork or inbound and outbound parcels.
- One-way systems – Organisations should provide clear signage and direction to control the flow of traffic around the office, and reduce the chance of person-to-person contact or crowding in corridors and common spaces.
- Dedicated workstations – Prior to the pandemic, hot desking was a consistently growing trend in offices and co-working spaces as a way to optimise space. As we ease back into the office, in order to reduce contact between people and cross-contamination of equipment many organisations will instead opt for dedicated workstations and additional measures such as plastic screens.
- Fresh air supply – Workplaces should maximise ventilation, whether this be natural via open windows, or mechanical via a fresh air conditioning or purifying system. A fresh air supply within the office can help to boost focus and energy levels of employees, as well as reducing the risk of viral transmission. Employees should also be encouraged to take breaks outside of the office, and organisations can help to facilitate this by providing sheltered seating areas, or green open spaces. Additionally, having indoor plants around the office space not only looks appealing, but can improve health, wellbeing and productivity. In fact, a green-certified office could contribute to 26% boost in cognition and 30% fewer sickness related absences.
- Right to disconnect – Stress is a modern epidemic. According to a study conducted by Perkbox in 2020, 79 per cent of working British adults commonly experience work-related stress, with just one per cent saying that they never do. According to the Mental Health Foundation, the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population. In fact, over 11 million days are lost at work a year because of stress at work. To support the health and wellbeing of employees, organisations should promote a culture of ‘work smart, not long’. In Ireland there has been a new approach to enable all employees to strike a better work-life balance. In April 2021 the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published a code of practice on employees ‘right to disconnect’. This new code of practice works to create clear distinction between working and non-working hours.
Although employers are not able to completely eliminate health concerns, implementing these measures that support both the mental and physical wellbeing of employees is guaranteed to give members of staff reassurance should they decide to return to the workplace.
To find out more about Quadient and the benefits of a contact-free parcel locker solution for your office, visit: https://www.quadient.com/en-GB/intelligent-parcel-lockers-corporate