International property consultancy Knight Frank has created a strategy to make sure that employees are able to safely re-enter their workplaces once lockdown sanctions have been lifted.
The step-by-step plan assesses capacity and risk for a safe return to work and securing the wellness of employees by continuing to decrease the spread of Covid-19.
Knight Frank’s Strategic Workplace Consultancy team developed the roadmap based on current accepted re-occupancy procedure being trialled in Asia and supported by the US Government. This includes social distancing within the office, and extended working from home on a part-time basis to allow gradual reintegration into the workplace.
The roadmap is designed to support occupiers in five areas: understanding their employee base, reviewing the employee/customer ‘journey’ within the workplace, evaluating social-distancing options, determining occupancy impact and developing protocols and floor plan guidance.
It identifies two categories of change that must happen. The first is behavioural changes, making certain that strict protocols such as clear desk policies are applied, and that social distancing is possible within the workplace. The second is environmental change – increased airflow, changing HVAC filters or enhancing cleaning regimes.
The masterplan’s Covid-19 ‘risk overlay’ identifies spaces that present the highest risk of contamination and maps out how to reduce surface transmission through increased protocols. High-risk areas are identified as those that people share as part of their normal working day that could pose the potential for human-to-human transition – lifts, breakout or café areas, washrooms, printers, libraries, coat cupboards, or vending machine areas.
Businesses are encouraged to develop an occupancy strategy. A comparison can then be drawn between the size and functions within an office and the number of people that are expected to be in any given office space. This can then determine which areas can be used safely. Key areas of the office that will need to be evaluated and adapted will be conference rooms, phone rooms and workstations.
Neil McLocklin, Knight Frank’s head of strategic consultancy, said: “With lockdown now confirmed for at least a further three weeks, the severity of the current situation could not be more apparent. Business will be keen to return to the office as soon as possible, but their staff will need assurance that it is a safe environment to do so.
“This will mean we come back to a very different office, with perhaps every other desk vacant to allow social distancing, and very different behaviours. I regularly have video calls with colleagues in China and seeing them wearing face masks in the workplace highlights the different work environment we will be returning to. Defining and agreeing the new policies, protocols and cleaning regimes is critical now, so businesses are prepared for the return and staff are reassured that the workplace will be safe.
“The World Health Organization is advising that social distancing should continue as workforces return, a model that is currently being adopted in China. However, adapting office environments to best facilitate collaboration, whilst also ensuring safe working practices and limiting the risk of Covid-19 is a difficult challenge. We have developed this framework to provide an important first step for businesses to safeguard against the spread of coronavirus. We will need to adapt to a new normal, at least for the foreseeable future, which combines both the importance of collaboration, social interactions and conducting business whilst mitigating fear and protecting the workforce.”