From August 1st, the UK government advised employees to return their workplaces wherever possible, as long as the premises could be made safe.
However, uptake on this has been slower than expected. Footfall in the centre of London was 68% lower than the same time last year. This result was only a 2% increase on the preceding week where stricter restrictions were still in place.
One might expect that the slow change is held back by the smaller companies. They don’t have the budget for expensive health and safety changes and are burdened with old, rented buildings they can’t alter.
In fact, numerous large, multinational companies are taking a slow and steady approach to the question of whether or not to return to the office.
To return or not to return
US bank Morgan Stanley looked at the stats on white-collar workers in the UK, and found that they were half as likely to have returned to their offices as European white-collar workers. (34% returned compared to 68%.)
However, another study by Salesforce Research found that 64% of British workers to return to the office in some shape or form. 70% of urban workers surveyed said that they still preferred the idea of working in a city rather than the suburbs.
Steel company Evraz is planning to bring its site “back to normal” in September, and will ensure the ready availability of hand sanitiser, masks and social distancing space.
At the other end of the spectrum, investment company Standard Life Aberdeen has said that most of its 4,900 workforce would not return to the office for the rest of 2020.
Natwest Banking shares this view, declaring that they won’t return their staff to offices until 2021 – at the earliest.
Many of the large companies surveyed by the Evening Standard have said that they will be finding a new mid-point, somewhere between filling offices to capacity and leaving them empty.
For example, car insurance company Admiral has stated its intention to
“create a flexible workforce with a mix of remote, office and hybrid workers”.
What is a hybrid worker?
It’s a type of working that may in fact already have been in place in many companies before the lockdown.
It simply means that some employees work from home while some work from the office. (A workplace where everyone works on the premises is called co-located, and a workplace where everyone work away from the premises is usually called “fully remote”.)
Since remote working was on the rise long before the pandemic made it abruptly mandatory, this hybrid workplace will undoubtedly be a familiar situation to many managers.
In a normal scenario, common hybrid workplace management concerns include keeping track of their remote workers’ attendance and productivity from afar, and making sure everyone is using equipment which keeps them safe and healthy.
For example, did you know that constant video calls with inadequate headphones and microphones can lead to tinnitus and voice problems?
There are many other well-known concerns for managing a remote workforce, including making sure they feel part of the team and fully appreciated.
However, in the current COVID19 pandemic it is important not to overlook the wellbeing of the portion of your office-bound staff.
For example, government guidelines say that a business should maintain a two-metre distance between employees, or 1.5m with “mitigation measures.” This includes all areas of the premises, including ones often neglected such as break rooms and entrances.
What are mitigation measures?
Mitigating actions include:
further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
One way to reduce crowding and numbers is to alter shift patterns. This is being considered by global mining company Anglo American, which said: “When we do open up the office to more of our employees, we will continue to operate a weekly shift system for the time-being to ensure appropriate de-densification and health bubbles.”
Tensor’s attendance management software can aid businesses in maintaining social distancing.
Arrival times can be staggered to avoided crowding in entranceways and long queues. The shift selection system can assign fixed or flexible shifts as required to employees as they clock in.
Shift assignment allows rostering of staff based on skills and headcounts within a shift, section, cost centre or department. The software will advise if you will drop below your preferred level of cover and this is configurable on any given day.
Employee lunch and break patterns can be monitored and reported on using Tensor.NET, enabling administrators and managers to spot any potential ‘hot spots’ and act accordingly.
Entering and exiting the site can also be made contactless. Automatic door openers can be controlled by contactless exit buttons, and clocking can be carried out via by radio-frequency smartcards.
Fifty-two percent of workers surveyed by Salesforce said that they were comfortable sharing their health data and contact information with employers to keep their workplace safe.
Tensor.NET software offers administrator functionality to keep track of all hybrid employees’ status and keep them safe. Options include “Self-isolating,” “In Lockdown,” “Tested Positive/Negative.” Click here for a detailed guide on how to forbid site access for specific absence reasons.
The Tensor remote clocking app also has a setting where any employees who are travelling abroad can notify the company. This enables managers and health and safety staff to make informed decisions. There is more information about that here.
Daily health checks can be carried out in the form of a facial recognition system with contactless temperature monitoring.
This software conducts rapid, contactless preliminary temperature screenings which are accurate to within half a degree. Any results higher than the set threshold temperature generate an audio and/or visual alert.
This can prevent the person’s continued access on site as well as notify the health & safety officers within the organisation.
If you are looking at creating a hybrid workplace, either in the short-term or the long-term, and would like to know more about any of our products, please get in touch.
We provide online product demos, as well as online training once products are purchased, so that no unnecessary physical contact will take place. Our engineers are following a strict social distancing policy during the COVID19 pandemic.