How to Return to the Office

Even though the authorities in most countries still recommend working from home where possible, many companies have already started to think about how their employees can eventually return safely to the office. And now is the perfect time to do so.

In this blog post, we have put down a few things to consider when planning your return to the office. We are also sharing our own internal policies and instructions as an example. Please note that you should always follow the instructions provided by your local authorities.

If you would like to discuss with our experts about the possible modifications of your office, additional cleaning or anything else, do not hesitate to contact us! You can find all Technopolis guidelines and actions on the issue here.

1. Create a Company Policy

Invite all crucial business functions to work together to make best possible guidelines for your company. Agree also on the new etiquette at the office. Communicate the company policy clearly to everyone. Follow closely the instructions provided by the local authorities and base your decisions on these.

Some things to consider:

  • Who goes back and when?
  • How many can use the office simultaneously to keep a safe distance?
  • What is your policy on internal and external meetings? What about travel?
  • How do you take into account the employees who have to use public transport to get to work?
  • What do you do if someone gets the virus?

 

Example: Technopolis Internal Policy

For Technopolis employees, working at the office is voluntary for now unless a person’s role requires them to work on the campus. However, we have wanted to give our employees the opportunity to return to the office if the local authorities haven’t forbidden it. It is extremely important for us to make the returning to the office as safe as possible.

In Technopolis we have decided that our Business Unit Leaders and Functional Leaders agree with other supervisors on when their teams can return to the office. Our internal recommendation is that for the time being only 30-50% of the team can work at the office simultaneously. If there is a possibility to divide offices, it can be done.

Before we are fully back to normal, it is very important to make sure everyone gets the same information regardless where they are working from. Therefore, we have a policy that participation in all meetings has to be enabled remotely. Meetings with external partners are still held online to the extent possible.

The employees commuting to work with public transport need to follow local health authorities’ advice. In Technopolis, work-related traveling by plane is currently not allowed.

We have advised our employees to come to the office only when they are feeling well. If someone has COVID-19 symptoms, they need to get tested if possible and inform their supervisor and HR. Also, everyone working in the same office will be informed. In case an employee gets COVID-19 symptoms/diagnosed, we will follow quarantine recommendations of local authorities for the whole team.

2. Ensure a Clean & Safe Environment

Ensure your office is regularly and properly cleaned so it is as safe as possible for your employees. Also make sure it is easy for everyone to keep the office clean and tidy during the day. Remember to inform your employees about how and when the workspace is cleaned. It is important that people who are returning to the office feel comfortable and safe.

Some things to consider:

  • How is your office cleaned? What does the cleaner do and what is expected of the employees?
  • Do you need to have a clean desk policy or similar help to keep the surfaces clean?
  • Do you need special disinfection equipment in the office for your employees?
  • Do you need hand sanitizers at the office?
  • Do you need paper towels in the toilets and kitchen?
  • Do you need instructions on hand washing and coughing correctly?
  • Do you have a trash bins that can be used without hands?
  • Can the kitchen still be used in a normal way?

 

Example: Technopolis Internal Policy

Our own office is regularly cleaned by our cleaning partner. We have a clean desk policy to help cleaning: everyone has to remove all papers, accessories etc. from the desks at the end of each day. After each meeting, participants are expected to clean the remote controls and other devices in the meeting rooms with disinfectant.

We provide hand sanitizers in our offices and paper towels are provided in toilets and kitchens. In the kitchens, we use bigger trash bins that can be used without hands. Only packed snacks are provided to the office for now.

Extremely good hand hygiene needs to be applied when using kitchen facilities. We instruct our employees to wash their hands carefully and to use hand disinfectant.

We advise all our employees to be considerate of others and putting extra effort on washing hands frequently and sneezing and coughing correctly.

3. Re-design the Office

Re-evaluate your office layout and redesign if necessary. You can ask us to help you with this if you needed. Consider how many people can use the meeting rooms and working areas at the same time and if you need to arrange furniture in them to create a looser layout. It is recommendable to arrange the office so that it is possible to keep a 2-meter distance in every possible situation.

Some things to consider:

  • How can you ensure social distancing at the office?
  • Do you need to rearrange furniture and workstations?
  • Do you need to have extra walls or similar built in the office?
  • How will the meeting rooms be used?
  • Will the phonebooths be still in use?
  • How do you use narrow corridors?

 

Example: Technopolis Internal Policy

We recommend our employees to keep distance of 2 meters to colleagues in every possible situation. In our own office, social distancing has been applied in the office layout to ensure 2 meters between employees. We have marked some of the workstations with “not in use” signs. In open areas we recommend our employees to use every other seat and cross seats.

We have changed the layout of our internal meeting rooms so that social distancing recommendations are met. In our own meeting rooms, we recommend maximum 5 persons simultaneously or alternatively meetings can be held online even when the persons are physically in the office. After each meeting, participants are expected to clean the remote controls and other devices in the meeting rooms with disinfectant.

We have clearly marked all items that are not in use such as phone booths, table football game etc.

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Image 1. Example layout during “step by step returning to the office”.Weeks might be different and every other week alternating seats are in use.

4. Update the Policy & Instructions

Follow the instructions by the local authorities and update your company policy and instructions when it is needed. This situation is new and information changes so fast that it is good to focus on basic things. Internal communication is crucial and should be done frequently.

 

As mentioned earlier, if you would like to discuss with our experts about the possible modifications of your office, additional cleaning or anything else, do not hesitate to contact us  Let’s stay well!