Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the environments in which we work have changed; an increased focus on social distancing and cleanliness being the main drivers of 'the new normal' in the office. To allow workplaces to be safe going forwards, the government have outlined guidance on the measures needed to be taken before employees can be welcomed back. This is where we can help.

Here at Oaktree Interiors, we are a leading provider of office design solutions for a vast array of industries. Our position at the forefront of the industry allows us to mobilise quickly and effectively whenever changes happen; the Coronavirus situation being a prime example. Here, we have created a step-by-step guide of what you need to do to ensure that your office is ready to welcome back the workforce when the time is right.

What steps are needed for a post-COVID office design?

Whether your workplace will require an office refurbishment, fit out or just a simple re-organisation, it can be easy to assume that putting in place new measures will mean vast monetary and time costs, so what's the point in bringing people back? In fact, with sufficient planning, getting people back, enjoying their work should cost very little; putting in place the measures now will ensure that everything (and everyone) has the best opportunity to get back to a pre-lockdown workrate.

Here are the steps you need to take to ensure your office safeguards against infection transmission:

Undertake a risk assessment

Undertake a risk assessment

Before work restarts in the office, businesses should carry out a risk assessment on the workplace, following current HSE guidance. They should speak to employees (and trade unions, if applicable) and share the results of the risk assessment with workers and on publicly-available forums (such as on its website, etc).

Establish procedures for hygiene, cleaning and handwashing

As cleanliness is an obvious vital component of managing the risk of infection, the frequency of cleaning should be increased; not just around the office, but individually too. People should be encouraged to follow up-to-date guidance on handwashing and hygiene, have access to hand sanitiser and hand drying facilities (paper towels or electrical dryers). For the rest of the office, objects and surfaces that are touched regularly (desks, computers, telephones, etc) should be subjected to enhanced cleaning, busy areas will need enhanced cleaning and clear use and cleaning guidelines should be set for toilets/washrooms.

Uphold social distancing where possible

Uphold social distancing where possible

To minimise the risk of infection, social distancing guidelines should be upheld in the office at all times. This can be done by:

  • Placing signs around the office, reminding workers (and any visitors) of the guidelines.
  • NOT letting people share workstations.
  • Using floor paint or tape to mark areas for people to stay in, so they keep the right distance.
  • Arranging for a one-way traffic plan through the workplace where possible.
  • If possible, see visitors by appointment only; this allows you to prepare for their visit and put in place any extra cleaning.

Continue to manage the transmission risk

In a certain office design, the social distance aspect may prove to be impossible; the government guidance states that in such cases, businesses must do everything practical to manage the risk of transmission. This can be achieved by:

  • Considering whether certain activities need to be continued for the business to operate.
  • Activity time should be kept as brief as possible.
  • Screens/barriers should be used to separate people from one another.
  • Employees should be positioned 'back to back' or 'side to side' wherever possible.
  • The number of people each person has contact with should be reduced by using a 'partnering' or 'fixed teams' method.

Those were the steps your office needs to take to allow its workers to return safely; why not allow the expert team here at Oaktree lead you up them as quickly and efficiently as possible?

Return to work safely, with Oaktree Interiors

Regardless if you require re-planning concepts, installation of acrylic desk-mounted screens or need suggestions on how extra space can be created to achieve social distancing, you can feel rest assured that the Oaktree team can help.

All office design, office refurbishment and office fit out work we undertake is done so in strict accordance with official guidance from the government. Our health & safety specialists, site-based personnel and our supply-chain partners are diligently working together and complying with all the additional protection measures we have implemented.

Our management team is constantly monitoring the latest changes within the guidelines, enabling us to be able to respond as quickly as possible. Our mission, as always, remains to create the perfect office space to inspire and motivate; not even a global pandemic has changed this ethos.

If you would like to read our full statement on our COVID-19 strategy (as well as how we're ensuring that all our projects are run to government guidelines), click here.