Published: 15 Jun 2020
Updated: 24 Dec 2020
Category: Workplace Wellness , Compass Tips , Human Resources

Back to Office Arrangements for Returning to Work After COVID-19

Back to Office Arrangements for Returning to Work After COVID-19

Reopening the office after COVID-19 is vital for some companies, as not everyone has the luxury of working from home smoothly. Even as employees return to the workplace, companies will understand that things will not be as they were before the pandemic.

Inevitably, a set of protocols for the new normal must be set in place. Let’s look at easy but effective measures that can help safeguard the workplace as employees move back into the office.

Office Social Distancing

According to the Hong Kong Government’s guide, social distancing measures need to include keeping a minimum of 1 metre distance between individuals. The minimum social distancing rule varies across countries, make sure to double-check your country’s regulation.

Companies should also establish rules regarding the use and movement through common spaces. Decide whether traffic will need to be restricted to one-way in certain confined hall spaces. Check local regulations or decide if masks will need to be worn at certain times or in common areas, such as in lifts, pantry, and toilet.
The use of lifts also needs to be considered with regards to how many people can use the lift at a given time, and how to effectively serve the needs of staff in the building with reduced lift capacity.

Some ingenuity may be necessary to solve the issue. Rotating schedules, or allowing more flexible lunchtime, start and end of workday will allow people to avoid taking lifts during peak time, thus spreading out traffic over several hours. Companies may also consider discouraging using of lift for journeys of less than three floors.

Office Layout after COVID-19

Complying with social distancing rules as the new normal requires rethinking of office layout.
Here are some office layout ideas for social distancing:

  • Arrange alternate work days for employees, so that you can keep one desk empty between employees at all time.

  • Back-to-back sitting arrangement, where employees have their backs against each other instead of facing each other in a tight space.

  • Put up temporary plastic partitions in between desks.

Office Hygiene Policy

Lastly, office hygiene policies will need to be put in place. This is far more than just placing proper handwashing technique signs above sinks. Companies can consider providing hand sanitisers and wet tissues with 70% alcohol in all the common areas where employees interact, and particularly those areas which involve food and drink.

The break area can easily turn to a minefield of germs. Common areas of food storage may need to be removed altogether as well as tea and coffee stations. The latter, alternately, may be replaced with single-serve beverage machines for hot coffee and tea.

Cleaning staff will also need to establish a regimen of regular disinfection of not only lavatories but also commonly touched areas such as doors and security code panels, as it is done here. Additionally, handrails and lift panels will need to be cleaned regularly. 

Getting a Proactive Start on Safety

Until there is a permanent cure or vaccination against the virus, getting back to the office can be safer with new regulations and safety protocols in place to protect employees.

Being proactive in implementing proper measures will give businesses an upper hand in managing employee welfare in the new normal post COVID-19. This also creates a higher degree of employee confidence when their companies have laid out a thoughtful plan to maintain their wellbeing and encourage their return to work with a peace of mind.


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