Pandemic Proofing Your Office: 10 Tips to Reinvent Your Space in a Post Covid World

As lockdown measures begin to ease, business owners are having to adapt their workplaces and offices to the ‘new normal’ – working alongside coronavirus. One of the key workplaces in need of post-covid reinvention is the office. Aside from a move towards open-plan in recent years, the UK office space has remained largely unchanged, and business owners are now having to explore ways of bringing back their teams into safe environments designed to eliminate virus transmission.

Noting a 700+ increase in sales of commercial sensor tap installations across the UK between April 1st and May 31st as offices opt for hands-free bathrooms, business expert George Holland of Victorian Plumbing discusses the design changes workspaces can expect to see following the pandemic, plus 10 tips for business owners on reinventing office space in a post-covid world. 

1. Smart Bathrooms Will Become Standard

Bathrooms are one of the biggest challenges faced by the post covid office, with automation becoming key across the board. Sensor taps, allowing hands-free hands-washing, will become mandatory, and as well other smart tech such as automated flushing toilets and automatic soap dispensers. Whilst we’ve already seen these kinds of changes in bathrooms with a lot of footfall – i.e. airports – they’ve yet to really affect office spaces. Expect to need a bigger budget for bathroom renovations post-pandemic.

Pro Tips – take advantage of empty offices and access bathrooms now. Test run a toilet-trip and note every contact point. Get quotes for hands-free technology and invest early to keep employees happy and safe. If you share a space, speak to the building owner about their plans.

2.We Won’t Take Cleanliness for Granted 

Let’s face it – offices are filthy! Everyone knows our keyboards are dirtier than our toilet seats, but before the crisis it was difficult to get people to care. The covid crisis has forced us to reassess what clean means – and that means we’ll no longer take dirty office spaces for granted. A recent Seattle Times report found that the typical office phone has 25,127 germs per square inch. Now think how bad your computer is!

Pro Tips – make it mandatory that everyone has their own keyboard and mouse, which only they can use. Buy anti-bacterial wet wipes and encourage staff to clean down their desks at the start and end of each day. 

3.Rethink the Office Fridge 

People only clean their home fridges about three times across a whole year – so you can imagine how neglected office fridges are! Also, get into the habit of thinking about the office fridge – not only are surfaces a hotbed of contagion. But food left to its own devices and forgotten by busy employees can be a recipe for disaster – allowing for all kinds of food-borne illness like E-coli and Salmonella. 

Pro Tips – speak to the cleaning team about how often the fridge is cleaned. Create a rota for volunteers to give the fridge a clean. Regularly check what’s in the fridge Friday afternoons and bin anything you don’t need.

4. Don’t Ignore Door Handles 

Think about life before covid – did you ever really worry about door handles? Covid has made us all aware of what we’re touching, and office doors are a hotbed for spreading illnesses around. In fact, one study found that a doorknob could infect half the office within hours!

Pro Tips – it’s not realistic to expect businesses to invest in automated doors for meeting rooms, so make sure you introduce training about keeping door handles clean. Put hand sanitiser near doors, and tissues with bins specifically used for opening doors.

5. Digital Dependence 

Imagine how offices would have fared with covid just ten years ago? As well, technology has been a life saver allowing businesses to remain productive during the pandemic. That means that technology will be more important than ever as we move forward.

There will be huge investments from companies to bring everything online, and make sure workers are able to work remotely whenever necessary. 

Pro Tips – sit down with managers and IT teams and make sure everything that you need to have online, is online. Google Drive is a low-cost solution but look to tools like Basecamp for wider solutions.

6. Cybercrime will Rise

On the back of this however, expect to see a rise in cybercrime. As more businesses move entirely online, it opens them up to attacks from criminals, who will often attack websites in demand of ransom money. Remote workers are particularly vulnerable as home offices are often on less secure networks.

Pro Tips – now is the time to make sure your business is secure. Speak to tech and IT teams about challenges and issues they’ve clocked, or pay for a respectable security company to audit your site. Be aware of security for remote staff.

7. Socially Distanced Design

A few months ago, no-one had even heard of social distancing. Now, it’s looking to have a huge impact on office design. Following government guidelines will be vital when it comes to keeping staff safe because, this will mean changes to office layout, furniture placements and desk sizes as we adapt to ‘the new normal’ office.

Pro Tips – Look at the size of office desks and space out staff. If you can’t physically space out your team, keep a rota for remote working and only have half in at one time. Reduce meeting sizes by half too. Aim for more meetings on Zoom.

8. Go Green 

With an increasing eye on employee mental health, business owners will need to invest in ways to make offices more mentally-welcoming spaces. Plants make a fantastic addition to any office – not only do they look lovely, they’ve been proven to improve productivity by up to 15%! So make sure your office is green-proofed when staff start coming back.

Pro Tips – Office plants are an easy fix to boost your teams happiness and reduce stress. Get your team involved by asking them to choose from a list of plants they’d like. Create a watering rota – you’ll be surprised how quickly the team takes to office plants!

9. Encourage Employees to take Sick Leave

UK culture is such that taking sick leave can be seen as a bit of a taboo. Employees will come into work with all sorts of ailments, encouraged to get through it because there’s too much work to do. This will change post covid. Employers need to tell their staff to take time off if actually ill. Not only to allow the sick team member to recover, but to stop other team members getting sick too!

Pro Tips – business owners need to have a serious discussion with HR teams about how to handle sick leave. Conversations need to begin changing the established culture. 

10. Expect Long Term Design Changes

Covid is going to have a lasting impact on how we design offices. Long term, we may see the end of open plan offices and a return to cubicles of the past. Expect to see temporary walls to create divides between different teams. Expect to have less people in the office at all times. 

Pro Tips – be flexible to the needs of your team and keep aware of government guidelines when it comes to offices. Don’t resist changing office trends and make sure you listen to your employees.

About Victorian Plumbing:

Victorian Plumbing was founded in 1999 by Mark Radcliffe. The company is independently owned, with offices in Merseyside, Manchester and Birmingham. Victorian Plumbing is the largest online bathroom retailer in the UK, with a turnover of £151m in 2019.

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