Covid-19 has turned our worlds upside down. It’s caused us to change the way we work, the way we shop and even the way we dress. We have quickly and unexpectedly had to adapt to changing rules, for example the Government telling everyone who can work from home to do so. Now over a year into this global pandemic, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Recently in the UK, non-essential shops in addition to hairdressers and pubs offering outdoor drinking and dining have begun to re-open; over the course of 2021 we should see more restrictions relax.
The future is looking far brighter, and businesses are starting to think about the opportunities that lie ahead. One of the key considerations for businesses moving forward is how to manage a return to work and what exactly the return to work will look like. In fact, in a recent report with Microsoft and YouGov, it’s been found that nearly 90% of employees have reported employers adapting to hybrid working while 63% stated that they don’t feel pressure to return to the office; even if restrictions do relax.
Even after the pandemic, homeworking will be the norm for a large majority of us, however, this doesn’t mean offices won’t have their place if businesses adopt a more hybrid-working approach by incorporating both home and office working. One example is Deutsche Bank coming out and reporting that plans were being developed ‘towards the implementation of a hybrid future working model, combining the benefits of flexible working with the benefits of spending time together in the office’, while online bank, Revolut, has said that most of their current office spaces will be converted into ‘collaboration spaces’.
With this in mind, what will offices look like and what adaptations will be made in order to accommodate this new way of working in the immediate and long-term future?
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What Will Offices Look Like Post-Covid?
Shared Collaboration Spaces
Recent reports and studies have suggested that one of the most common reasons for missing the office is missing the social aspect and being around other colleagues. Employees miss having face-to-face interaction when collaborating on projects. Therefore, if more employees are going to return to the workplace, offices will need to be transformed into places that foster this collaboration and communication. This means while there may still be desks that allow for individual work; we may expect to see a rise of shared spaces that allow for collaboration and in-person meetings.
While limits on the numbers of people you can mix with may come to an end, social distancing could be here for a long time yet. If your business has had to adapt the office space for the short term, you may need to ensure these changes can be made permanent. While tape on the floor may have previously been used to measure out the distance between people and desks, your office layout may have to be re-designed to accommodate social distancing for the long-term. This could also include introducing a rota whereby only a certain number of people come in at different times, for example.
While space is needed to allow for social distancing, if workers aren’t in the office so much and at different times; large office spaces may not be needed so much. With smaller spaces, even if people wanted to be in the office at the same time, it may not be possible. Businesses may have multiple smaller units or introduce a system whereby staff can ‘book a desk’ for the day. As studies suggest, hot-desking can be far from hygienic, therefore businesses will have to consider ways to provide shared desks while minimising any risks associated with them. Having a regular cleaning schedule that includes professional disinfection may be one way to ensure reassure employees and make them feel safe. Alternatively, you may want to provide cleaning packs that employees can use that include desk and equipment wipes, cleaning sprays and individual hand sanitiser.
Hand Sanitiser – Everywhere!
We’ve heard it repeatedly during the pandemic, and for good reason. Good hand hygiene saves lives, and even after the pandemic, these habits of handwashing and sanitising shouldn’t stop either. It’s going to be more important than ever to ensure your business is providing permanent hand sanitiser solutions to ensure people are protected and can practice proper hand hygiene. In addition to providing individual bottles, think about where else hand sanitiser stations will be needed, for example meeting rooms and entrance points. In the past, hand sanitiser might not have been such a necessity, but it is now. The presence of hand sanitiser can be enough to reassure employees and visitors that you are taking hygiene seriously, and actively keeping them safe.
Permanent hand sanitiser solutions could include providing wall-mounted or hand sanitiser dispenser stands that are fixed in position and can be serviced by your hygiene services provider.
More Like Home
To encourage people to use the workplace, after working from home for so long, the office needs to be a place that’s more an extension of your home; comfortable, engaging and social. No longer can an office just be thought of as a place where we work on a practical level, an office space now must contribute positively to mental and physical health and overall well-being.
In addition to shared spaces for collaboration, inviting spaces for coffee breaks, office plants and reading areas can make the office feel welcoming and a bit more like well, home. With flexible working allowing people to go on walks and do a bit of lunchtime yoga; adding training rooms, relaxation and even exercise areas in the workspaces of the future, for improved wellness, is very much key. Many employees have realised how important work-life balance now is and looking after employees’ wellbeing needs to be done both at home and in the workplace.
Plants in the Workplace
Having plants in the office is one way to make the workplace feel more like home but they actually have other benefits too. Not only do they have several physical and mental health benefits, plants help to improve the acoustics by absorbing background noise to allow employees to concentrate better and be more productive. For example, research has found that staff who work in environments with plants report fewer respiratory illnesses due to the way in which plants release oxygen and moisture. With a focus on health and hygiene, it’s more likely we will see plants ‘crop’ up in the workplace.
Air Purifiers & Ventilation
Keeping the air clean is one way to keep infection transmission low and the introduction of modern air care systems in office spaces is likely something we will see more of; especially during the cold winter months when keeping the windows open may not be an option. Air purifiers that use UV lights and other technologies to capture bacteria, viruses and other pollutants will no longer be seen as a ‘nice to have’ but rather a necessity.
Remote Collaboration Tools
If some people do decide to work in the office more often, there could be a disconnect between those working from home and those in the office. For this reason, ensuring structure and engagement between office/home workers is vital. We may see more technologies used in the office that connect those working from home and in the office.
Touch-free Entry Systems
Say goodbye to push-button pads to enter the workplace. With a wide range of infections being transmitted through our hands, we are likely to see any systems that require touch being replaced with touch-less solutions. From solutions to get into the building to touch-free automatic flushes in the washroom, offices who make the move to touch-free will provide peace of mind to employees and visitors. However, don’t forget that even with the introduction of touch-free systems, to reduce risks of infection it’s vitally important that everyone practices effective hand hygiene.
Temperature Body Scanners
Before covid, it was highly unusual for any employee to have to take their temperature before entering the workplace. Fast forward to 2021 and beyond, we are far more likely to see temperature sensors at entrance points so that employees can check they are healthy prior to entering the facility. While staff may have come into work with the odd illness in the past, this will be discouraged in the future. In addition to temperature body scanners, employers should re-iterate sickness policies to ensure staff don’t come into the office and spread potential infection if they feel under the weather.
Top Tips for Top Hygiene in the Office of the Future
It may be a slow process to encourage people to return to the office. There may be anxieties over working in shared and public spaces again as we have been told for so long not to go out and to work from home instead. Therefore, employees will need peace of mind that the office is a safe space to be. For this reason, hygiene will need to be a top priority both now and in the future. As a hygiene services provider, here are our top tips for top hygiene in the future office space.
- Ensure hand sanitiser is provided at entrance and exit points, in addition to spaces where collaboration happens and on desks.
- Create a cleaning schedule that prioritises shared spaces and high-traffic touchpoints. Consider professional disinfection that can provide an extra layer of protection. Some disinfection solutions such as the Citron Sani-Shield service whereby an antimicrobial treatment is applied to surfaces provides protection for up to 12 months.
- Display hygiene guidance posters to educate and reinforce the correct practices amongst staff and visitors.
- The UK Government states that fresh air can reduce the spread of infection so keeping windows open and using commercial air purification systems in indoor spaces is essential.
- Consider what cleaning and hygiene supplies you need to provide to employees to help them keep their desk and other spaces clean.
- Think about touch-free solutions, as alternatives, to limit touch and reduce hand to hand person infection transmission in the office.
Talk to Us About Your Business’ Hygiene Challenges
Whether your business moves to a hybrid way of working or encourages workers to go back to the office full time, the office space is going to be re-imagined, and all business owners will have to make changes. With so much to think about when preparing for the future, Citron Hygiene can help by ensuring you have solutions in place that prioritise the safety and health of your employees and visitors. We are currently offering free hygiene consultations to all businesses where we can provide expert advice on what solutions your business may need to ensure you are prepared for the office of the future.
If you think this is something your business could benefit from, get in touch with our team to arrange your consultation today.