How can you bring staff back to the office safely in a post-corona virus UK? The short answer is that Clean, Barriers, Distance or CBD. According to the COVID-Secure Guidelines released by the cabinet office that is the solution to get office workers back to the CBD, or central business district. Can you CBD what we did there?

"Make environments COVID-19 Secure!" was Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call to the British workforce. As OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy rolled out on 11 May, many employers and workers were somewhat confused as to what exactly they can do to establish a COVID-19 secure workplace. Some of this confusion probably stems from the fact that the COVID-19 Secure Guidelines included in OUR PLAN TO REBUILD is a placeholder for multiple sets of advice on Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19)

If we are going Save Lives, and Save Livelihoods, we will have to Stay Alert and Control the Virus. In this, preparation is critical. Just like the rest of the UK coronavirus response, we need to prepare our open-plan offices for the safe return of our workers. In this article, we will look at one set of measures that will align your office with the government's post-lockdown back-to-work proposed guidelines so you can get back to work immediately. It will also give your office added protection against future outbreaks.

Clean

Before staff return, ensure that your ventilation systems are functioning and that the office is meticulously cleaned. Once your workforce is allowed back into the office, the main objective is "to keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces." Work areas, equipment and surfaces that are touched frequently, like door handles, should be cleaned regularly throughout the day, and rubbish bins should be removed more often. Much of this new normal requires behaviour adjustments and your workforce will need reminders. 

You can prepare for your office: 

  • Add signage to remind workers to wash their hands frequently and to maintain hygiene standards.
  • Add hygiene-stations with sanitizers at various locations including at all entrances, exits, and elevators.

Mobile Hand Sanitizer Stations

Touch-free sanitizer dispensers add an extra layer of safety. They can easily be placed where you need them. 

Hand Sanitizer Station

Distance

The guideline is 2 meters. A research study by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing has shown that the coronavirus can travel further, and hang around in the air for longer than we initially expected. Resultantly, some recommendations indicate that 4 meters are a far better safe distance than the current 2 meters. 

Before the coronavirus, a modern office easily seated 14 people in a 4-meter radius from patient X. Returning to a London office with one human being every 4 meters of space will imbue the post-corona office with a post-apocalyptic feel.

Even when keeping to the 2-meter distancing principle, you can only expect, at most, 50% capacity.

You can prepare your office:

  • Add demarcations on the floor using tape or paint to indicate a 2m radius around workers.
  • Add stickers to desks that may be used and remove chairs from desks that should remain empty.
  • Tape off chairs and couches in public areas that should not be used.
  • Add footprints to the floor to indicated expected behaviour, like facing opposite corners in the lift.
  • Introduce one-way traffic flow through the building.
  • Restrict access between different parts of your building, so you know who is where.

 

Protective Screens (Barriers)

Divide and conquer. Barriers such as protective desk screens that shield and keep your staff safe are by far the best solution. As office furniture consultants, many of our office layout best-practises have had to go back to the drawing board. Literally. Drawing little social distancing rings around chairs on floorplans has become an intricate part of the "new normal". 

The reality is that we can only bring people closer together if we put something between them. Divide and concur with social distancing measures.

The Divisive Plot to Bring People Closer Together

By combining physical distance principles with office desk screens and room divider solutions, it is possible to bring your workforce back into the office. The Senator Group, one of our furniture manufacturers, has devised a 3-part solution to keep your employees safe when they return.

1. Define office workspaces

Define Methodology

2. Adapt your current office

Adapt Methodology

3. Furnish your office for maximum safety

Furnish Methodology

The Desired Outcome of COVID-19 Protective Screens

When you reimagine the way you work, this is probably what you have in the back of your mind for the solution:

  • It must block potentially harmful virus transmission through talking, coughing, and sneezing. 
  • Easy to clean, and preferably be anti-microbial
  • It should allow users to define their own space to demarcate social distance and provide psychological comfort physically. 
  • The solution should be highly adaptable for use with your existing desks, touchdown benches and meeting tables. 
  • It should clearly identify a primary workspace for each employee that they must keep clean.
  • It should not require reconfiguring existing spaces or changing the office layout. 
  • Easy, immediate installation with no detriment to existing furniture. 
  • Easy removal later when COVID-19 is beat, and a greater density of space is required.
  • It should accommodate existing cables without removing electrical and IT equipment. 
  • Multi-purpose is a plus.

The Best Materials to Control the Coronavirus

Anti-microbial Upholstery

ShieldplusTM upholstery is a certified anti-microbial fabric that has been demonstrated to be effective against Nora and Coronavirus. Tested to ISO 10993-5:2009 standards, it has also been proven to be non-toxic to humans.

Easy-to-clean MFC and Translucent Panels

Smooth MFC panels can be wiped down fast. Additionally, you have the option to use anti-microbial laminates that reduce the active life of the virus.

Our transparent and translucent screens are also smooth materials, that can be fully cleaned. Transparent screens allow for face-to-face conversations without having to face an infection risk.

Products for a COVID-19 Secure Workplace

3-sided Screens

3-sided screens are an instant COVID-19 secure solution to demarcate work areas on existing bench desks and even meeting tables. They are an excellent way to assign a safe space to your workers, that they should clean themselves to create a hygienic office culture.

About Me - Upholstered 3-sided Containment Screen

High screens are covered in an anti-microbial fabric that gives them a homely aesthetic for a more tactile, softer, human feel.

About Me Upholstered 3-Sided Screen

About Me - MFC Containment Screen

Smooth MFC panels that can be fully cleaned, with the option to use anti-bacterial laminates that reduce the active life of the virus.

MFC Containment Screen

About Me Acrylic Containment Screen

Smooth translucent material, that can be fully cleaned and allows for face-to-face conversations with adjacent colleagues without having to face an infection risk.

Acrylic Containment Screen

Desk Screens

Desk screens add layers of protection where they will be most effective.

About Me Curved Front Screen

The curve in these high screens provides extra protection to other staff members by directing airflow and particles to stay put. It can be installed immediately with clamps or brackets to existing furniture.

Curved Front Screen

About Me Translucent Desk-Mount Screen

Smooth translucent material, that can be fully cleaned and allows for face-to-face conversations with adjacent colleagues without having to face an infection risk. 

Translucent Desk-Mounted Screen

About Me Freestanding Storage Screen

Freestanding high screen with integrated storage keeps your belongings away from contamination on the floor.

Combines anti-bacterial fabric and easy-to-clean MFC panels with the option to use anti-bacterial laminates.

Freestanding Storage Screen

Freestanding Storage-Screen with Return

This freestanding high screen with integrated storage also features an upholstered return, so the virus doesn't sneak up from behind. 

It combines anti-bacterial fabric and easy-to-clean MFC panels with the option to use anti-bacterial laminates.

Freestanding Storage Screen with Return

Fabric Gantry Screens

Upholstered with anti-microbial fabric, the Chemistry Gantry puts and effect Negates the need to re space plans and reconfigure existing spaces.

Fabric Gantry Screens

Translucent Screens and Desk Screen Toppers

High screens in either glass or acrylic keep the office sociable and the office open feel without endangering desk-bound workers.

Protective Acrylic Screen Toppers

Chemistry Canopy

It's the type of screen that says "I've got your back, buddy!"  

Chemistry Canopy

Mobile Screens and Other Solutions

Adapting to COVID-19 means you must roll with the punches… and that is much easier when your furniture can roll, too. 

Mobile furniture items allow the floor to be fully cleaned. They can be actioned immediately without worrying about existing furniture or your office layout.

Tall Division Storage on Wheels

This multipurpose side screen and storage solution adds distance between desks, and no-one needs to touch your stuff to move it when the floor needs a clean. Along with keeping your belongings away from contamination on the floor, it gives psychological comfort that personal items are nearby.

Tall Division Storage

Possessions Caddy on Wheels

The Possession Caddy fits under any surface. It keeps your belongings away from contamination on the floor and no-one needs to touch your stuff to move it when the floor needs a clean. 

Mobile Screens

Highly adaptable for use adjacent to desks, touchdown benches and meeting tables. Mobile screens are a great solution to protect staff who sit next to passages.

Mobile Hand Sanitizer Stations

Touch-free sanitizer dispensers add an extra layer of safety. They can easily be placed where you need them. 

Furniture Solutions

Beyond adapting your current office, future furniture choices will play a big role in maintaining a COVID-19 secure workspace for your employees.  

SetMe Bench Desks 

We wrote a whole article on how sitting all day is killing people slowly, long before corona started killing people quickly. SetMe Bench Desks solve both of these issues with a height-adjustable desk surface that is also 2000mm in width for physical distancing. Worktops are even laser edged to create a continuous sealed desk surface without the glue-line that could harbour germs. 

SetMe Bench Desks have a spectacular accessory range that includes integrated high screens, making them the perfect desk solution for a COVID-19 secure office.

SetMe Bench Desk with Screens

Pods

Do you remember those horrible cubicles of the 80's? Well, pods are NOT that. Dare I say it… pods are sexy. Adding definition to your office while giving your staff a safe space and a sense of psychological belonging, modern pods are an excellent COVID-19 secure workplace solution.  

Cell Pod Meeting Pods

Cell Pods are integrated room-in-room solutions with built-in air conditioning. Fast and easy to assemble these modular systems can easily be reconfigured as your requirements change. You can read all about it in our love letter to multipurpose spaces.

What makes Cell Pod a perfect COVID-19 secure solution is the modularity. You can get multiple single-person work pods to keep your workers safe during coronavirus, and afterwards, you can use the modular pieces to build a noise-cancelling, meeting room with integrated multimedia. 

The UK's response to minimise the devastating effect of the coronavirus has been spectacular. The people, the NHS, and the British government have all worked together to stay home and save lives. Now it is time to take the economy off its ventilator, so the most vulnerable in our society can yet again earn a living wage. 

Let us do what we have been doing. Let's work together to make the transition back to the office as safe as possible. 

Cell Pod Meeting Pods

12 May - By Hein de Vries