The global coronavirus pandemic led to a considerable proportion of employees working from home. It means many business leaders had to grapple with ideas surrounding reintroduction to the office.
ramsac, a U.K.-based IT company, successfully executed a range of hygiene and social distancing steps to protect their staff from COVID-19 in adherence to government guidelines. Below are the steps they took.
COVID-19 safe strategy
The company began the gradual re-opening of its office on July 13, 2020, having closed on March 20. There was much to do in preparation to abate fears regarding the safety of employees, as well as meet all government social distancing guidelines.
Improving hygiene around the office
How well you tackle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic depends on individuals taking special care to stay as clean and hygienic as possible. Businesses need to provide the means to limit the spread of germs through touch to support this. At ramsac, the following measures were put into place:
- Touchless hand sanitizer station on entry. Upon entry to the office, all employees are asked to use the hand sanitizers provided. The standalone station worked with a sensor, enabling users to apply hand sanitizer without touching anything.
- No desk phones – personal softphones only. To stop germs spreading through shared use of phones, either via the handle or the mouthpiece, ramsac removed desk phones. Instead, the staff was asked to use softphones via their laptop with their set of headphones.
- Internal doors kept open. All doors within the office, aside from toilet doors, were kept open. It further limited the spread of germs through touch because people did not touch handles and doors. Automatic door closers were installed. These inexpensive devices hold a door open on a magnet, which is released at the end of the day, or by the sound of the fire alarm, to adhere to fire regulations.
- Hand towels instead of dryers and tea towels. Paper hand towels are thought to be the most hygienic option for drying hands because they are not shared like tea towels, and they do not emit a spray of water like a hand dryer machine could. To encourage individuals to use hand towels at ramsac, more dispensers were installed in the bathrooms and kitchen areas, and hand dryers were powered off.
- Sanitization station in toilets. To help facilitate cleanliness and encourage individuals to take responsibility for themselves, sanitization stations were installed in toilets. These dispense an antibacterial spray to a hand towel, which can be used to wipe down toilets, flush buttons, taps, sink areas, and handles.
- Office deep clean. To maintain overall cleanliness, ramsac arranged to have their office deep cleaned before re-opening and have contracted cleaners to come in and carry out a thorough clean every day. It included special attention on all handles and hard surfaces. The cleaning contract was extended to ensure that every desk and every surface was properly cleaned after each working day.
Maintaining social distancing
In addition to helping individuals stay hygienic through these cleaning measures, ramsac implemented various steps to facilitate the recommended two-meter social distancing throughout the office.
- Social distancing signage. The company placed signs throughout the office to remind employees to maintain social distancing. These asked staff to stay two meters apart from one another at all times.
- Reduced capacity of communal spaces. Chairs were removed from all shared seating areas, including meeting rooms, the staff room, and the kitchen, to reduce their capacities. It made it harder for employees to break social distancing rules by mistake. To facilitate the need for larger meetings, the director’s offices at ramsac were designated additional meeting rooms.
- Hot desking. To make it easier for staff to return to the office as and when needed, all existing desks at ramsac became hot desks. They have been completely cleared aside from extra-large monitor screens that could be hooked up to individual laptops. It meant anyone could work at any free desk.
- Desks removed and separated. Social distancing was easily maintained while working because desks were assigned ‘available’ or ‘not available.’ The staff did not have to sit side by side. Where possible, some desks were removed to facilitate further separation.
- A review of IT hardware. To manage a reduced office capacity, the company allowed staff to have a blended home/office work plan, and so desktop PCs were replaced with laptops to enable staff to have one work device that travels with them. Keyboards and mice became personal issues, so hot desks were left clear of any accessories. Everyone was issued with a headset, which is considered a personal issue, and conferencing tools in meeting rooms were upgraded. Meetings now happened with some people in the office and some dialing in from their home office.
Organizing the safe return
In addition to properly preparing the office, leaders at ramsac also carefully considered how they could slowly introduce their teams back to the office. They recognized that some people would feel nervous. So, they worked on a phased approach to provide people with the peace of mind that things were safe.
The shot a simple video showing all of the changes made. It was shared with the homeworkers, so they could get an idea of what they were coming into. The carried out several surveys to gauge opinions and to understand things like child care challenges and health concerns.
So, why return to the office?
The reason why most companies, including ramsac, began re-opening their offices was due to the benefits associated with seeing colleagues in person.
Stepping back into the office, I instantly remembered how much better communication in “3D” is, and how the unplanned chats and conversations added to the learning and development of myself and my team.
There have been huge benefits in working from home, and we will certainly be doing much more of that in the future. But I don’t believe the office is dead yet!
The communication and interaction that often happens in an unplanned way allow colleagues to grow and develop. The blended approach already had a massive impact on service and skills within the 3 days of the office re-opening.
Read more on our learning about achieving social distancing in the office, and make sure your workplace is adequately prepared for accommodating your employees.
Dan May is the Commercial Director at ramsac, providing secure, resilient IT management, cybersecurity, 24-hour support, and IT strategy to growing businesses in London and the South East.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Photo credit: iStockphoto/Chansom Pantip