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‘Don’t confuse the short-term actions with your longer-term workplace strategy’ warn workplace design experts

In the age of COVID-19 organisations have been forced to abandon traditional ways of working in favour of adopting remote working practices where they can. But has this really been a shift in the way we work, or has it simply brought in to focus the challenges of an outdated approach to working life? There is much speculation as to when we will return to post-COVID-19 normality, with many suggesting that the world of work has been changed irreversibly. Whilst that may seem a daunting prospect for some, it is a real opportunity for organisations to unlock the potential of their people and drive tangible business growth by revaluating their workspace.

Returning to the office has been a moving target in recent weeks, with a lack of government guidance and speculation of a looming economic recession making it difficult for business leaders to create a strategy for bringing their staff back in to their normal working environment. Tech-savvy businesses have largely adapted well to the new normal of remote working however those organisations failing to adopt new technologies have suffered most and have been faced with a mammoth task in order to continue trading and drive growth.

Despite having been relieved of the daily commute, the work-from-home approach is not without fault, with recent survey data highlighting a notable reduction in an employees’ sense of community, social interaction, ability to share knowledge, ability to learn from others and fewer opportunities for informal collaboration.

Understanding what social distancing in the workplace looks like will be a priority for businesses looking to get staff back in to work however there are several other considerations to best manage a safe return to your workplace.

Reducing office headcount, in-person interactions and limiting the sharing of workspaces will address the immediate risk to spreading illness. This can best be achieved through the implementation of a desk reservation system coupled with a rigorous cleaning regimen. Making sure staff than can work from home are able to do so is a straightforward way of making this transition back to the workplace easier.

Whilst the retail sector is adopting the use of acrylic screens to protect staff in employee-customer interactions, there is little guidance available to indicate their effectiveness in the workplace. In fact, recent research from Aalto University highlights the potential ineffectiveness of these screens in the workplace though as their tests noted how cough particles circulate high in the air. As such, these screens should not be considered a solution to the problem, instead they are most effective as part of a more holistic, long-term workplace strategy.

Long-term planning will involve assessing the strategic business value of an organisation’s workplace. For the workplace design industry, we believe this will manifest itself in the form of a new wave of exciting workplace design schemes that are more closely aligned with strategies to attract and retain the best talent, than they are with maximising the capacity of a floor plan. Technology will play a significant part in this, facilitating a more agile approach to work with connectivity enabling seamless remote working and state-of-the-art IT infrastructure being integral to business continuity.

The role of technology will transcend every area of a business and its operational procedures as businesses design out high-touch activities through the implementation of gesture and voice control, not forgetting digital room booking and video conferencing technology.

Jonathan Kerr, Managing Director at Kerr Office Group said: “Prioritising comfort and connectivity in the workplace in this way will be a far more effective workplace strategy than simply the addition of acrylic screens to the work environment. We’re working closely with clients to develop a strategy that allows their staff to return to the workplace safely”.

As you explore the best way to return to the workplace— whether that is in a traditional office, at home, or somewhere in between—Kerr Office Group are here to help. We are experts in workplace design and fitout. Our extensive experience means we can offer support to businesses looking to manage this post-pandemic period of turbulence and uncertainty as you plan to bring your staff back in to the workplace. Download our free guide “Managing your return to the workplace” here:

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Sarah Irving

Head of Marketing & Communications

Direct dial: 01753 870500

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