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Building back better: 3 top tips for COVID-secure office management in your built environment.

October 12, 2020 / United Kingdom

How can office managers support businesses to accelerate the return to pre-COVID productivity? 

Despite the huge disruption COVID-19 has heralded, the office is still the nucleus of the business. That doesn’t look likely to change – with 74% of UK employees saying they want to split their time between the office and working from home after the pandemic.

The onus, then, is on employers to make those offices feel safe for employees. So workforces can start getting as much back to ‘normal’ as possible. 

How does office manager support need to change? 

Three quarters of UK employees do trust their employer to create a physically safe workplace and healthy environment. Confidence is high – and office managers are the guardians of this confidence, helping protect employees from risk and helping them feel safe, so they can work productively. 

Day-to-day office management has changed almost beyond recognition though, and the challenges only get more profound as workforces start trickling back to physical offices. 

When everyone’s WFH, issues around engagement and enablement are central – but now, there are stringent requirements around reopening physical shared spaces. 

Office managers must stay constantly abreast of the most recent government guidance to inform risk assessment and protocols, to support the business in managing a COVID-secure space. 

Here are three tips for confidently supporting the business when it’s time to get back-to-work. 

#1 – Managing staff numbers

Current UK government guidance says it’s important to maintain two metres social distancing wherever possible. Office managers can help implement this guidance by managing staff numbers strictly, controlling the flow of people through shared spaces. 

That could be ideas like:

  • Creating marked-out floor plans to encourage two metre distance
  • Encouraging one-way flow of people to limit crowding
  • Enforcing maximum numbers in communal spaces like kitchens
  • Creating staggered workstations (and avoiding hot desking!) 
  • Staggering start/end/break times to manage peak demand for shared spaces
  • Controlling who works with who, creating fixed collaboration teams 
  • Promoting continued WFH if not detrimental to wellbeing or productivity

#2 – Overseeing rigorous cleaning procedures

Coronavirus transmission happens either through respiratory droplets or through ‘fomites’ – objects like surfaces that become contaminated. Managing staff numbers to maintain social distancing helps limit the potential of the former – and rigorous cleaning limits potential transmission via the latter. 

Office managers should consider cleaning from two perspectives:

  • Encouraging robust handwashing and hygiene procedures amongst employees. That might look like: putting up posters; increasing communication with regular reminders; providing hand sanitiser and stations; ensuring bathrooms are well-stocked with handwashing supplies; providing single-use or no-touch hand drying facilities. 

Overseeing frequent cleaning and disinfecting of office equipment and spaces. That might look like: creating more stringent checklists for cleaners; changing office cleaning providers to enhance capability; increasing scheduled office cleaning; providing disinfectant spray and wipes near shared equipment; booking a regular office deep clean.

#3 – Implementing new delivery protocols

Managing staff numbers and overseeing rigorous cleaning procedures helps control the potential spread of the virus within the office. Office managers must also turn their attention to anything brought into the office from outside. 

Think… sanitiser deliveries. Bathroom supplies. Kitchen supplies. Office supplies. Food employees bring from home. Food employees order in. Food packaging. Post employees get delivered to the office.

It’s a long list, and it’s obviously not practical to stop deliveries into the office. What office managers can do is ensure any deliveries and providers are following stringent COVID-secure protocols themselves.

In fact, provided those protocols are in-place, encouraging deliveries could be a positive resource for office managers. For example, allowing employees to order food to the office could circumvent issues around using communal kitchen space while still ensuring employees are well-fed. 

As many businesses look towards long-term hybrid working, office managers face a new set of challenges. Rolling-out new COVID-secure protocols across the office won’t be easy but it’s the prerequisite for a faster return to pre-COVID productivity, increased employee engagement and long-term loyalty. 

This blog is part of The team that Eats together initiative, a content series exploring what normal looks like now, and how to enhance the working world to meet evolved employee expectations.

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The views and opinions expressed are based on the research conducted and they do not intend to present an official policy of Uber or any of its subsidiaries. Examples of advice mentioned in this article are based on open source information and assumptions made within the article are not reflective of Uber’s position.