FM firm Mitie is one of several businesses that have published post-lockdown guidance to prepare workforces for getting back to work.
Guidelines have been issued by numerous organisations after a vague indication by the government that they should start preparing for the end of lockdown. 10 Downing Street has said Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be making more a detailed announcement about the nation’s exit strategy on Sunday.
Mitie has created a guide entitled Getting Britain Back to Business,which details four key stages and a comprehensive checklist for facilities managers preparing for the reoccupation of buildings.
This includes cleaning, engineering, security, workplace design and front of house, through to waste and landscapes, as well as energy management and sustainability. The guide has been created to help businesses of all types and sizes navigate the “incredibly challenging task of preparing for the return to the office”.
Although it includes specific recommendations, such as how to use route planning and employee zoning to prepare for social distancing, it can also be easily adapted to specific property portfolios, buildings or working environments.
To guarantee a safe and efficient return to the workplace, the guide recommends that businesses structure their planning in four key stages:
•Stage one – facilities and portfolio evaluation: With many workspaces currently closed or at minimal occupancy, now is the time to take a step back and review what building space the business actually needs. There may be an opportunity to reduce office footprint where there is no longer a requirement for it or alter the workplace design so it works more efficiently for employees.
•Stage two – recommissioning the work environment: As buildings and workplaces reopen, it is important that they are safe and fully operational for colleagues and customers. As well as ensuring that the building is sanitised and allows social distancing, it is crucial that employees understand the actions the business is taking through comprehensive employee communications.
•Stage three – adjusting to the new normal: The workplace will undoubtedly be transformed because of Covid-19, but embracing that change will offer opportunities for improvement. This could include leveraging technology more widely to reduce costs and enable social distancing or the introduction of new workplace practices and policies.
•Stage four – future-proofing: Looking further ahead, one likelihood for business is further uncertainty, and so it is important to plan for more unexpected disruptions. Reviewing and improving current processes – such as resource contingency planning or installation of remote monitoring systems – will ensure that businesses can navigate future challenges.
Atalian Servest has published The FM’s Guide to Reopening Your Workplace, which sets out the key areas that businesses need to consider and includes the options for gradual reoccupation, including how to determine a building’s capacity with social distancing in mind and introducing new ways of helping people move around the building safely while adhering to the two-metre rule. It covers topics such as welcoming visitors and new front-of-house and security procedures to new cleaning regimes, staff catering options, maintenance regimes and emergency evacuation protocols and the guide sets out all the areas that a facilities professional needs to consider. There is also a section on how to communicate these changes effectively and advice on working with other partners and departments to manage this process.
But the TUC has called on the government to introduce tough new measures to ensure that before lockdown restrictions are eased, all employers assess the risks of their staff team returning to work outside the home. In its report, the TUC outlines what government and employers need to do to keep workers safe at work after lockdown is eased and to give staff the confidence they need.
The union body is demanding that every employer in the UK be required to carry out a specific Covid-19 risk assessment, developed in consultation with unions and workers.
It says the assessment must:
• Identify what risks exist in the workplace and set out specific steps to mitigate them, including through social distancing.
• Seek agreements with the staff trade union, where there is one.
• Be signed off by one of the UK’s 100,000 trade union health and safety reps, or by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, to make sure that it is robust.
• Be completed and communicated to workers before they are expected to return to their normal place of work, which means that employers should start work on their assessments now.
The TUC adds that employers who fail to complete their risk assessments or put the appropriate safety measures in place should face serious penalties, including prosecution.