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Getting people safely back to the office during COVID-19

Planning to move your people back to the office?

What you will need to think about.


If we want to move to economic recovery and work place normality as quickly as possible we are all going to have to look at what we can control and move to a new way of operating. Not only are we going to have to provide our people safe physical workplaces in line with the new COVID -19 government guidelines we are also going to have to support our people psychologically in the new way of working.


In the last week the Federal Government, in their roadmap back to economic recovery, have laid out a very detailed process for preparing your workspaces to be a safe as they can be from Covid-19. They have identified 23 Industries of focus and provided a very clear mandate and direction for business leaders to follow. The process has been given to Safe Work Australia to oversee, and all relevant information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces


Whilst all industries carry their own unique risk, an article in the Australian Financial Review this morning really highlighted the challenges most contemporary office space designs will face in the new world of Covid-19. Reporter Michael Bleby went as far to say that “Offices are the new cruise ships for COVID – 19.


“James Calder, who helped design the country's first activity-based workspaces (ABW) in 2001 in the MLC centre in North Sydney, as well as other similar spaces in Sydney and Melbourne, said offices would have to be redesigned and cram fewer people in to reduce the risk of transmission.

Workplace strategist James Calder says hot-desking and open-plan offices won't work in a time of COVID-19.

"Until we have a vaccine, I can't see how ABW worksettings in their full capacity mode can actually be used. They’re just like land-based cruise ships. The circulation paths are intended to make people meet as many other people as possible – I know, because I've designed them. They're the perfect incubator for passing this thing around."

https://www.afr.com/property/commercial/offices-are-the-new-cruise-ships-for-covid-19-20200506-p54q5j

Just as we changed cultures by providing more open plan, activity based working facilities to enhance collaboration, creativity and functionality. We are going to have to support our people and guide their behaviours so that we don’t loose the culture we worked so hard to create, whilst still providing them with new spaces and ways of working.


Just as quickly as the Covid-19 pandemic changed our everyday lives, leaders must, just as quickly, define a new way of working that will take their individual business forward into their new normal. Some have made incredible leaps forward in remote working and this may not change, as they find they may not need office space at all going forward.


Others will need to get their people back into the office and will need to look at how they are going to create physical spaces, following the safe practices as prescribed. The most successful will do this plus have a change management plan to ensure their people are supported. Supported, so the new behaviours of their people are aligned with the culture that organisations have worked very hard to achieve.


Workplaces around the world are moving quickly to get back to work as usual and looking for a range of solutions to keep people away from each other. “The office you left is not going to be the one you return to” Jeff Green and Michelle Davis, AFR May 4, 2020

https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/the-office-you-left-is-not-going-to-be-the-office-you-return-to-20200504-p54pgz

At a minimum, Australian offices will need to adhere to the physical distancing practices as outlined on the Safe Work Australia website, some of the required changes are as follows (please visit the website for the full list of requirements)


Worker interactions and work tasks

- Where possible, provide each person with at least 4 square metres of space in the office in accordance with general health advice.

- To achieve this, calculate the area of the office space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by 4. This will provide you with the maximum number of people you should have in the space at any one time.

Layout of the workplace

- You may need to redesign the layout of the office space and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible:

  • restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas, and

  • spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing.

Workplace facilities

- Reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g by staggering meal breaks and start times.

- Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.

Staff gatherings and training

- If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:

  • hold the gathering, meeting or training it in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms

  • limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and

  • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors.

If you or your clients require any assistance in making your office space safe and ready for your people, please reach out to a member of the team at Zinfinity Projects.

W: www.zinfinityprojects.com

E: info@zinfinityprojects.com

P: (08) 6107 4566


Building Registration: 100560

© Since 2013 Zinfinity Projects

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