We, as humans have a series of needs, some of which must be met before we can turn our attention toward returning to work. Safety as a basic human need was acknowledged by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs. Safety needs represent the second tier in Maslows hierarchy and they include the security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality of family, and of health.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Right now businesses across the world are tasked with ensuring workplaces are safe to return to, so we have compiled a short list of items to consider when planning your workforce remobilisation.

Governments are beginning to provide guidelines to assist safe return of employees to the workplace.

The risk of not following guidelines could result in employee sickness, potential loss of life and consequently, prosecution of the company.

Compliance is therefore a legal liability however, responsible employers are also aware that employees want to feel safe to return to their workplace. Employees expect companies to consider and communicate the steps which have been taken to ensure they are protected.

1. Company Risk Assessment Policy

  • Ensure your company Risk Assessment policy is up to date and shared with the people who work at your premises
  • This should include specific information pertaining to Covid-19
  • A new policy must be clearly displayed and made available to your employees
  • If in doubt seek advice from specialist Health & Safety Consultants
  • The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in the UK have set out helpful guidelines here.

2. Hygiene & Cleaning procedures

  • Your cleaning procedures should be revised and Facilities should now be deep cleaned on a regular basis
  • Regular record keeping of cleaning practices, enabling you to evidence your compliance with guidelines
  • Provide hand washing facilities at every entrance to your buildings or where this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser
  • Ensure all touch points are considered and addressed; door panels, lift buttons, fridges, microwaves, keyboards, phones etc should be protected with anti virus solutions
  • If your business uses touch screens, consider anti-bacterial screen protection. This kills bacteria on the surface and also protects your equipment from strong cleaning products, which may be used in enhanced cleaning schedules
  • Consider putting up displays that remind your employees of the importance of good hygiene.

3. Enable remote working where possible

Fewer people in the workplace is an obvious way to reduce contact and therefore transmission of disease.

Business who already had flexible and remote working practices before the current pandemic will have undoubtedly found working during lockdown somewhat easier, if not less of a shift.

Performance of staff in some instances has improved. Employees have had a rare opportunity to evaluate the balance of work and home life. Productivity gains are evolving, least not by acknowledging the time saved from an unnecessary or long commute. We have simply been forced to review our way of working.

Whether you have made many changes, or a few adjustments, here are some tips to consider:

  • Use effective video communication and collaboration tools: Working with your in-house or specialist IT integrators can ensure the adoption of technology that is both fit for purpose and value for money, such as ISDM Solutions
  • Evaluate your employees’ home set-up to review broadband speeds, desk arrangements and IT equipment are what they require to work without interruption
  • Consider secure or encrypted communication when dealing with sensitive information
  • Check devices used for business are suitably protected in accordance with GDPR requirements; ensuring protection of corporate and customer data
  • Use an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution to ensure all staff can securely access company data behind your firewall.
  • Provide support to safeguard mental well-being of yourself and your colleagues, MHFA are a great resource for further information.

4. Social Distancing

Manage occupancy within your premises to allow social distancing

  • Reconfigure your workspaces to avoid bottlenecks or forced close proximity
  • Clear screens could be installed between desks and a reduction or re-purposing of hot desks, via a rota system
  • Consider using markings or stickers to indicate flow of traffic on walkways, which minimises proximity between personnel
  • Using real-time occupancy sensors such as UMA Sense, to accurately monitor employee and visitor numbers. UMA Sense captures datasets for compliance purposes and provides real-time occupancy data. Such information can then be used to advise staff of when it is safe to enter a particular space. Furthermore, alerts can be set up for occupancy limit breaches, enabling the Facilities team to act upon
  • Reviewing historical data of your workspace gives you an opportunity to save rent on unused areas of your building, whilst also highlighting ‘pinch’ points to be reassessed
  • Consider staggering start and finish times between teams or departments, or set up rotas to avoid overcrowding
  • The phased return of employees to the workplace will allow you to measure and manage any changes more effectively

5. Minimising the transmission risk

  • If your staff rely on public transport; consult with them and discuss supporting alternative solutions for them. This can be as simple as flexible work hours to enables them to travel at less busy times of the day or introducing cycle to work schemes
  • Any tasks specific to your company should be assessed on a case by case basis. Specialist advice relevant to how theses can be addressed can be sought from a Health & Safety advisor
  • Crucially, regularly review and adjust your Risk Assessment policy in line with continually changing Government guidelines.

6. Companies going above and beyond

Some employers choose to not just meet but exceed the Government requirements. If you wish to go the extra mile for staff who regularly do so for you, you may want to consider the following:

  • Initiating the use of wearable technology to minimise the number of contractors on site for maintenance requirements. This is also a great way to satisfy health & safety guidelines on lone working
  • Install thermal sensors: automatically check the temperature of staff and visitors, highlighting any individuals who may show symptoms can be sent for essential testing
  • If your workplace has in-house catering, this should also be reviewed. With flexibility around service times and clearing practices, you can reduce risk.

Consulting with and listening to your staff at such a crucial time will provide you with information you may not have considered. Your employees feedback could offer you an insight into the challenges they are facing, whether they return to the workplace or work remotely for the foreseeable future

Build flexibility into your proposals and consider employees’ personal circumstances which may impact their ability to return to the workplace. Do they have caring responsibilities? Do they consider themselves to be, or live with people categorised as vulnerable?

Now more than ever before it is important that businesses take a human-centred approach to making changes in the workplace to support your teams by first addressing their basic human need to feel safe.

With our thanks to MSafe Health & Safety Consultants and ISDM Solutions who supported this post with the resources above.

If you would like a consultation on how technology can support you with your remobilisation plans or just to share some ideas on the approach for your return to the workplace then contact Tim by email [email protected]

About Tim Stares
Tim Stares runs Amber Design and with over 15 years experience of designing private & commercial real-estate spaces now consults with organisations to help them transform their workplace and adopt new technologies.