How To Prepare For a Safer Return To Work – Q&A

We held our first webinar earlier this week following the Government’s announcement on 10th May which included a phased return to the workplace. We discussed the challenges faced by many employers and how our 12 Point Plan can help ensure workspaces are correctly prepared for a safe return to work and new ways of working.

Over the coming weeks, we will be closely monitoring the implementation of the Government’s Recovery Strategy and reviewing how this will affect the workplace on a larger scale. It is clear that measures will need to be put in place to protect staff, maintain social distancing, and increase the level of hygiene solutions available.

We will be sharing more information on how we can support your organisation prepare and achieve a smooth transition that incorporates re-planning traffic flows, space planning and maintaining collaborative zones within the workspace, in line with Government guidelines.

Please see below the Q&A summary from the webinar. A number of valid questions were raised which the Woodhouse team have reviewed in great detail and provided the following responses.

Why would an office require a deep clean as opposed to more regular sanitisation of touchpoints and extra cleans?
A deep clean provides reassurance to staff. Where there has been the presence of anyone with possible symptoms a deep clean with sanitisation will enable the space to be reused quicker rather than allowing for a longer interval for natural cleansing to take place. The fastest solution to disinfecting an area is the UV Bio-decontamination machine.  Alternatively, the surface sanitiser/disinfectant spray is easy to apply and offers a fast resolution which can be used daily to sanitise the space over regular additional cleaning.

Why is there no clear advice on Legionella control given to companies? I know you can look at mothballing on the LCA website, but water control seems to have been forgotten?
Legionella multiplies in water given the right temperature and nutrients and is often associated with water-cooled air conditioning systems.  We would recommend that specialist advice is taken surrounding this.

How long, as an estimate, will it take to make the average size office safe or compliant?
This would depend on the risk assessment for any given building and the measures found to be necessary.  Many items are in short supply but simple measures should be able to be actioned within 7-10 working days.

How do we know what products to trust? E.g. do the fancy heat-sensing IR cameras really detect people with a fever, or just hot people? Is there a kitemark for good kit that actually works?
It is recommended that checks are done to make sure that equipment meets the appropriate testing, criteria and is certified.  Examples have already been found of products that are essentially bogus. With fever screening, it is important that thermometers are accurate to at least 0.5C.

My boss thinks hand sanitisation negates the need for any other solution. Do you agree?
This sounds most unlikely. We recommend that you start off with a risk assessment. Also, nothing negates the need for social distancing. The Government have published a useful article which can be accessed here.

Does air con supply ventilation air change?
With air-conditioning, it depends on the type of system that is installed. Where the system is refrigerant-based – splits, VRF, VRV etc no air change is implicit – but sometimes an air supply is brought into the fan coil unit for fresh air supply. Where the system is ‘comfort cooling’ with wall mounted fan coil units then no fresh air would be provided.

Do you have any advice on improving ventilation in a 1980’s open-plan office 25×25 metres that has no aircon? The only ventilation is provided by windows with very restricted limiters 10cm gap. The office gets very hot in the summer. Portable aircon units are available, but to be effective they require the windows to be closed, which reduces ventilation.
We would require further knowledge of the building before advising. Ideally, a ducted heat recovery ventilation system would be installed. This would bring in a constant supply of fresh air and the heat recovery function would control the actual heat loss to minimise draughts and waste of heat.

From a Governmental and Corporate point of view, will be asked to follow certain rules going back to work? For instances certain square meters per employee, sneeze protectors, mask?
The Government have published a useful article which can be accessed here. As far as we are aware there is no general requirement for ‘sneeze protectors’ or masks in the office however social distancing is a requirement. Find out more about our Personal Protection offering which ensures your staff are looked after upon their return to work.

Is the back to work pack (Individual Wellbeing Pack) mandatory or good practice?
We believe this to be good practice however be mindful that the Government is intending to make COVID-19 secure workplaces mandatory.

What practical solutions are there to visibly show that the toilets are being occupied as most have confined spaces behind the entrance door?
We’re not aware of any system on the market however the team are monitoring this closely. In organisations of a sufficient size, a cloakroom attendant could be engaged to monitor/control the occupancy. In smaller situations some simple rules (homespun) could be implemented, such as checking, knocking or calling when opening the door to make sure there is suitable free space. It might be worth considering a lock on the entry door to the washroom area or a bell system. 

How to overcome employee fear of shared equipment from toilet seats to keyboards, kettles and headsets etc?
As to employee ‘fear’, it would be advisable to keep all employees supplied with their own Individual Personal Protection Packs so that they can ensure anything they touch is safe.

What guarantee does deep cleaning offer? Do we know enough of the virus to know what will kill it?
The short answer is that there is no guarantee. It is important to do the best that can be done in the circumstances and to follow the Government’s advice. Our sanitisation solutions are proven to kill 99% of bacteria and/or similar viruses.

How can companies safely hold meetings – reduced numbers, social distancing – it’s a bit of a nightmare to even consider holding meetings again!
This is certainly going to be a challenge for many businesses. Consider sitting far enough apart to maintain social distancing or placing acrylic or glass proximity screens on tables so that there is protection.

Have you come across any technology/desk booking solutions to support social distancing planning?
We are aware of systems which support desk-booking solutions, one in particular is iotspot smart workspace platform. This solution helps businesses to ensure social distancing is maintained. At Woodhouse, we can advise and support the implementation of solutions such as this.

How can you conduct a thorough consultation via Zoom, telephone without attending or being on-site?
For a thorough consultation via digital methods, we would require as much information as possible beforehand from the client. For example, floorplans, drawings, photographs etc, and a schedule of the areas for consideration.

Request a copy of the webinar recording and find out how to prepare for a safer return to the office. Email for more information.

Keep an eye on our communications and website for details of our next webinar coming soon!