What to consider when re-opening your offices (Bertie Stevenson, LI 1991-96)

Working from home has proved an amazing success, however there is a need for companies to reopen their offices in some form. This article will touch on a number of things you need to consider both in the short and long term as office use will change – and continue to change – as we live through Covid19.


Why open in the first place

Some of us already have peaceful home offices, away from the noise of the family and relish the idea of no more trains & commuting, however many people are struggling with the WFH.

  • They may not have an appropriate place they can work which is separate from the rest of the house. Best case, this could be the dining room table, but sofas, beds, armchairs and spare rooms with an ironing board as a desk are all being used. Ergonomically this isn’t and shouldn’t be a long term solution.
  • There is also the emotional attachment to a physical office, especially for those people who live alone, or worse aren’t in a healthy relationship at home and where the office was an escape.

HR teams should be aware of these problems and while you can run surveys, not everyone is comfortable raising their hands with problems.


Short term challenges

Individuals are all weighing up their own risks with Covid19 on how much they socialise and you need to cater for the lowest common denominator. We’d advise against making it compulsory to come back in where people don’t need to be there in person, however, as you do open the doors, you should show you are doing everything you can to protect the returning employee. A number of considerations include:

  • Managing the number of people in an office at any one time through the blocking off of certain desks to enable social distancing and workspace booking apps so people reserve a place to sit before they leave home and avoid everyone turning up at the same time.
  • Cleaning companies will have a field day as they up their rates for deep cleaning services, however so this doesn’t become a profit drain, you want to direct the deep cleaning to spaces that have been used that day – and maintain normal cleaning for the unused parts of the office. I’ve seen quotes for as much as £10 extra per workstation per day for a deep clean and the costs will quickly add up if you can’t control this.
  • While local governments are showing varying degrees of success with contact tracing to notify people who have been in close proximity to someone else who is showing symptoms or has tested positive for Covid19, organisations can take matters into their own hands with their own solutions for ‘inter-company’ contact tracing. As well as reducing the risk of spreading through your company, it’s also a great way to give employees confidence you are going above and beyond.


Longer term challenges

Once the doors have been open for a while you and the return to work policy is in action, the more strategic question on utilisation will come into play. How people used offices pre-Covid will be different from how they use offices now and that will continue to evolve at certain stages during this pandemic. For example, if/when a vaccine is successfully produced and rolled out.

As we’ve learned during the early stages of the pandemic, data and analytics has played an important role especially for epidemiologists. Ongoing, your facilities teams will rely on deep insight to track how people use the offices which will lead into understanding what real estate you need to keep, and what you can reduce. While we wouldn’t encourage you to sever contracts with landlords immediately, there is a common belief that organisations will be using less office space over time.


What next

Every company will undoubtedly have a team of people responsible for the return to work planning and this is where Serocold can support you. We’ve partnered with UK technology company Condeco to help clients overcome all these challenges through the application of their desk management software that will enable you to:

  • Manage the density of people in the office through by shutting down of workstations too close to each other
  • Facilitate a desk booking system for colleagues to pre-book places to sit when they do come in
  • Automate alerts to your cleaning company for spaces that have been used and need a deep clean
  • Enable contact tracing within your company to notify people who have been in close proximity to a colleague who has shown symptoms or tested positive (and then ask them to self isolate and get their own test)
  • Crunch the numbers with deep insight on how your employees behave so you can adjust your real estate strategy to match the future needs of your company


About Serocold

Serocold was set up by Bertie Stevenson (Littlefield 1991-1996) to help companies open their offices safely and assure employees they are doing everything they can to keep them safe. For further details, please visit www.serocold.com