Re-Opening Your Office Soon?

We’ve endured months of working from home, and while some offices re-opened during the summer and autumn months last year, many have stayed closed throughout the pandemic due to infection spread concerns.  Maybe you tried to re-open, but weren’t sure how you could achieve this safely, or you found that too many people, eager to get back to chatting round the water cooler, were coming in each day?

The basics of re-opening involve measuring the space employees have between desks and understanding the foot traffic patterns around the building.  To maintain social distancing, employees should have two metres between desks as a minimum, but pay attention to the office layout because this two metre zone includes the desk opposite as well as the ones to either side.  In buildings with lots of smaller offices you will need to work out how many people can safely occupy the space.  The dimensions make a difference here – you may find that a square office which would normally occupy 4 people may now only accommodate 2, while a rectangular office that can usually take 5 people now may only be safe for 1 person.

Once you have established how many people can safely be in the building you need to work out which staff will come in, and who will continue to work from home.  A rota may be one way to manage this, but consult with your staff as some may be desperate to come in every day, while others may feel safer staying at home.

Check your CCTV footage to get an idea of how people move around your building.  Can you install a one-way system, or does the layout make this impossible?  You may have to stagger start and end times if a one-way system is not viable.  The evidence from your CCTV system will show how people actually move around the building, so it’s invaluable as an insight.

We know most people will follow the rules, but an access control system can help enforce your rules, by disabling the key fobs of employees who are not supposed to be in on any given day.  You can also monitor who is coming in and when by looking at the data from your system.  An access control system can also enforce staggered start and end times by restricting the times of day each fob can be used.  The major benefit of an access control system on infection control is that is reduces the amount of touch points in the building, and if you can automate doors opening then this removes the need to touch door handles as well. 

If you want to go further, consider integrating biometric controls into your access control system which can read the temperature of your employees as they enter, and alert you to the presence of anyone with a high temperature.  You might even want to set a rule that disables access for staff registering a high temperature.

The data collected from your access control system will tell you how well it is working, and you can review activity on your CCTV system for a real-world window into the behaviour and compliance of your employees. 

The practical measures you need to take to re-open your office smoothly include introducing a mask wearing policy in common areas, the provision of soap and paper hand towels in toilets (to remove the risk of hand dryers blowing particles all around the toilets) and hand sanitizer at entrances, in kitchen and break areas and near stairs.  It will be a big project, but by drawing on security products you already have, or were going to install, you can take some of the effort out of it while still creating a Covid-secure access policy.